A capsule derived from lycopene, which gives tomato its distinctive red colour, could ward off strokes and heart attacks, says a Cambridge University study. The findings were presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association.
The study found that taking the capsule boosted blood flow and improved the lining of vessels in patients with pre-existing heart conditions. It also increased the flexibility of their arteries by 50 percent.
Researchers believe it could limit the damage caused by heart disease and help cut drastically deaths from strokes.
Each pill provides the equivalent of eating nearly three kg of ripe tomatoes, daily. They also hope it could benefit those with arthritis, diabetes and even slow the progress of cancer, the Daily Mail reports.
Ian Wilkinson of Cambridge University's clinical trials unit said: "These results are potentially very significant, but we need more trials to see if they translate into fewer heart attacks and strokes."
Preliminary results from a two-month trial, in which the pill was given to 36 heart disease patients and 36 healthy volunteers with an average age of 67, showed that it improved the function of the endothelium -- the layer of cells lining blood vessels.
It also boosted their sensitivity to nitric oxide, the gas which triggers the dilation of the arteries in response to exercise.
Studies have shown that eating a Mediterranean-style diet rich in tomatoes, fish, vegetables, nuts and olive oil can significantly reduce cholesterol and help prevent cardiovascular disease.