Tomatoes every day may keep stroke at bay

Regular consumption of tomatoes and other lycopene-rich fruits and vegetables may help reduce a man's risk for stroke, suggest study findings.

The researchers measured serum lycopene levels in a group of 1031 Finnish men, aged 46 to 65 years, and found that those with the highest levels had a 55% lower risk for any stroke than those with the lowest levels over a median period of 12.1 years.

"This study adds to the evidence that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of stroke," said study author Jouni Karppi (University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland) in a press statement.

"The results support the recommendation that people get more than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, which would likely lead to a major reduction in the number of strokes worldwide, according to previous research."

The study participants were enrolled in the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor cohort and had serum concentrations of major carotenoids, α-tocopherol, and retinol measured to assess links with stroke and ischemic stroke risk.

Over the follow-up period, 67 strokes occurred in the participants, 50 of which were ischemic strokes.

As reported in Neurology, Karppi and team found that men in the highest quartile of serum lycopene (>0.22 µmol/L) had significant 59% and 55% reduced risks for ischemic and any stroke, respectively, over the follow-up period, compared with men in the lowest quartile (=0.03 µmol/L). These risk reductions remained valid after adjustment for potential confounders such as age, examination year, body mass index, and systolic blood pressure.

Notably, no associations were observed between stroke risk and serum levels of α-carotene, β-carotene, α-tocopherol, and retinol.

"Studies have reported that lycopene has many bioactive functions. Beside its antioxidant properties, it reduces inflammation, inhibits cholesterol synthesis, improves immune function, and prevents platelet aggregation and thrombosis and thereby may decrease the risk of stroke," write the authors.

"Thus, a balanced diet including fruits and vegetables may prevent stroke," they suggest.

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