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Tomato pill is key to living longer

Daily Express

By Jo Willey

A SUPER pill made out of tomatoes could hold the key to beating arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.

British scientists believe the tablet harnesses the health-boosting properties of the Mediterranean diet.

Not only can it help unclog arteries, it has the potential to cut the risks of stroke, heart attacks and fight a host of lifethreatening illnesses.

The wonderpill, called Ateronon, contains the antioxidant lycopene, found in the skin of ripe tomatoes.

Earlier research hailed its fat-busting power to slash cholesterol levels.

Now, a Cambridge University study has shown the tablet also boosts the efficiency of blood vessels, improves blood flow and softens arteries hardened with age.

Ian Wilkinson, director of the university’s clinical trials unit, said: “We think these results are good news and potentially very significant, but we need more trials to see if they translate into fewer heart attacks and strokes.”

The tomato pill incorporates a newly developed version of modified lycopene compound which is easily absorbed into the blood to levels far above those naturally achieved by a Mediterranean diet.

Preliminary results suggest it can halt damage to hardened arteries, increasing blood flow and improving the flexibility of blood vessels by up to 50 per cent.

David Fitzmaurice, professor of ­primary care clinical sciences at Birmingham University, has been asked to recruit patients for long-term trials.

He said: “If this modified lycopene really does have an effect on endothelial function, then it could have a beneficial effect on virtually every inflammatory disease process, including things like arthritis or diabetes. It is speculative at this stage, but this might even slow down the development of cancer, which is also linked to inflammation.”

Peter Kirkpatrick, a Cambridge neuro­surgeon and medical adviser to CamNutra, which has developed Ateronon, said the results were promising.

He said: “It is too early to come to any firm conclusions, but the results from this trial are far better than anything we could have hoped for. This was a small group, and we now need to confirm the findings in a much larger study population.”

The two-month study looked at the effect of the pill on 36 patients with heart disease. They had an average age of 67 and were already taking cholesterol-lowering statins.

Until now there has not been a way of improving the naturally slow absorption of lycopene. Ateronon was shown to dramatically improve the function of the endothelium, the layer of cells ­lining the blood vessels. Increasing blood lycopene levels boosted the endothelium’s sensitivity to nitric oxide, the gas which triggers the dilation of blood vessels to improve blood flow during exercise.

If the same results can be demonstrated in more patients, the pill could offer an effective alternative to statins.

Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said the charity had funded some of the research behind Ateronon.

Until a more conclusive study had been carried out, he warned: “We still say the best way to get the benefits of a Mediterranean diet is to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.”

Heart and circulatory diseases are the biggest causes of death in Britain, with heart attacks killing 180,000 people a year and strokes claiming 49,000 lives.

Cardiovascular expert Joseph Cheriyan, who led the study, said the findings were “very exciting indeed” but preferred not to comment further ahead of publication of the full study in a scientific journal.

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