A study published in Neurology shows that eating tomatoes and tomato-based foods may be associated with a lower risk of stroke.
The study involved 1,031 men in Finland, ages 46–65. The level of lycopene—an antioxidant found in tomatoes—in their blood was tested at the start of the study and they were followed for an average of 12 years. During that time, 67 men had a stroke.
The study found that people with the highest amounts of lycopene in their blood were 55% less likely to have a stroke than people with the lowest amounts of lycopene in their blood. Among the men with the lowest levels of lycopene, 25 of 258 men had a stroke. Among those with the highest levels of lycopene, 11 of 259 men had a stroke. When researchers looked at just strokes due to blood clots, the results were even stronger. Those with the highest levels of lycopene were 59% less likely to have a stroke than those with the lowest levels.
“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 in Kuopio. “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 also looked at blood levels of the antioxidants alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol, and retinol, but found no association between the blood levels and risk of stroke.