Tomato products may protect against inflammation. Such were the findings from a recent multi-center, randomized, controlled trial on the effects of processed tomatoes on vasodilatation and C-reactive protein in overweight and obese men and women, presented by Rose Giordano at the Experimental Biology meeting held in New Orleans, La.
An immerging body of research suggests that inflammation may be a significant component in the development of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, periodontal disease, rheumatoid arthritis, neurological degenerative disorders, and inflammatory bowel disorders. There is growing interest in the role that diet may play in reducing inflammation in order to protect against such chronic diseases.
The regular consumption of tomato products has been consistently associated with a lower risk of several types of cancer and coronary heart disease. Using data from adults in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999 to 2004), researchers recently found that consumption of processed tomatoes was associated with significantly lower serum C-reactive protein. C-reactive protein is a recognized biomarker of inflammation.
Scientists are intrigued with the array of nutrients such as vitamins A and C, fiber, potassium, beta-carotene, and lycopene that appear to work together in unison to provide health benefits. Particular interest has surrounded lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found abundantly in processed tomato products.
Tomatoes, the second most popular vegetable in the country, represent an excellent opportunity to ward off chronic disease. Since processed tomato products are economical and easily adaptable to a variety of cultural diets, the health benefits warrant further investigation.
Given the potential for tomato products to protect against chronic disease, researchers from the University of California, Davis, National Center for Food Safety & Technology in Illinois, and Penn State University investigated the effects of processed tomato products on vasodilatation (another target for lowering disease through dietary strategies) and C-reactive protein on overweight and obese men and women.
Within the diets of 56 free-living individuals participating in the study, processed tomato products or non-tomato products were matched in calories, sodium, and sugar content. All of the test subjects consumed a low-tomato diet for three weeks followed by either a six week high-tomato diet or low-tomato diet.
At six weeks, the subjects were assessed as to the response of tomato after eating a high-fat meal. Compared with the low-tomato group, the high-tomato group experienced a C-reactive protein level that was lower in response to the high-fat meal. High-tomato intake was also associated with increased mean vessel diameter, but flow mediated vasodilatation was not different, possibly related to the BMI of subjects.
The researchers concluded that processed tomatoes provide a protective role on inflammation, but increasing adiposity may negate the benefits of the high-tomato diet on endothelial function.
Researchers in the study include Rose Giordano, Tissa Kappagoda, Mandeep Cheema, Jack Cappozzo, Yumei Cao, Penny Kris-Etherton, and Britt Burton-Freeman.
The study was sponsored by the Tomato Products Wellness Council.