People at Risk of Heart Disease May Want to Stock Up on This Juice

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The song says a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but it may be time for songwriters to begin penning paeans to tomato juice. A recent study indicates that drinking 200 ml (about 6.76 ounces) of unsalted tomato juice each day could bring down high blood pressure and cholesterol in people at risk of heart disease.

As reported in the journal Food Science and Nutrition, the small year-long study followed 481 people of mixed genders and ages in Japan with untreated high blood pressure and high cholesterol. They kept diaries noting how much unsalted tomato juice they consumed in the course of a year and any health changes they observed. Blood pressure dipped an average of 3% among 94 of the study’s volunteers; 125 of the participants had an average 3.3% drop in their cholesterol.

Lycopene, the chemical that gives tomatoes their rosy hue, may be the hero behind these numbers. Researchers say the substance prevents arterial plaque buildup, leading to lower blood pressure. Plus lycopene inhibits production of LDL, the so-called “bad” cholesterol. Other compounds in the fruit the French have dubbed “the love apple” inhibit how much dietary cholesterol is absorbed in the small intestine, as well as how much is synthesized in the liver.

Further research will be needed, as the Japanese study didn’t look at the participants’ total dietary intake, or their lifestyle. Even skeptics commenting on this study recognize the positive impact of a healthy diet on heart disease. Doctors encourage increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables we consume each day, but warn that juices in general get a red flag because of high sugar content. This is also the reason why so many foods on up on lists like the unhealthiest item in every fast-food chain in the U.S.

Any news about ways to control or reduce heart disease has the potential to be very good news indeed: It’s the cause of 1 in 3 deaths in the U.S. each year. High blood pressure and high cholesterol pump up the risk factor for heart disease and stroke. These are among the 28 dangerous things experts link to heart disease.