A dietary supplement derived from tomatoes
may help treat moderately elevated blood pressure, the
results of a small study suggest.
Researchers in Israel found
that a daily dose of tomato extract helped lower blood
pressure among 31 men and women with mild hypertension.
On average, their systolic pressure --the top number in
a blood-pressure reading --dropped 10 points, while their
diastolic pressure, or bottom number, dipped four points,
both statistically significant differences.
The supplement, sold as Lyc-O-Mato, contains several
plant compounds found in tomatoes. Among them is lycopene,
an antioxidant that some studies suggest may lower the
risk of cardiovascular disease.
Antioxidants, such as lycopene and vitamins C and E,
help neutralize oxygen free radicals -- molecules that
are a natural byproduct of metabolism -- can damage body
cells over time. This "oxidative stress" is thought to
contribute to a range of chronic diseases, including heart
The antioxidant effects of the tomato extract may explain
its apparent benefit on blood pressure, according to the
report in the American Heart Journal.
People who have mild high blood pressure or who have
high-normal blood pressure would be the "ideal candidates"
for treatment with the extract, said study co-author Dr.
Esther Paran of the University of the Negev in Beer Sheva.
It's these individuals, she noted, who are often advised
to use lifestyle changes to rein in their blood pressure
However, people who are already being treated for high
blood pressure should talk with their doctors before trying
tomato extract, Paran stated.
The study included adults ages 30 to 70 with stage 1
hypertension, defined as a systolic blood pressure between
140 and 159 mm Hg, and a diastolic pressure between 90
and 99 mm Hg. Blood pressure is considered normal when
it is below 120/80; anything between that and 140/90 is
Study participants spent 4 weeks taking a placebo, or
inactive, capsule each day, after which they were given
a tomato extract capsule every day for 8 weeks. Finally,
they spent another 4 weeks on placebo capsules.
LycoRed-Natural Products Industries, the maker of Lyc-O-Mato,
supplied the extract.
During the treatment period, the group's average systolic
blood pressure fell from 144 to 134 mm Hg, while their
diastolic pressure dipped from 87.4 to 83.4 mm Hg.
At the same time, blood samples showed that certain markers
of oxidative stress had declined -- suggesting that the
supplement's antioxidant activity was responsible for
the blood pressure benefit, according to the researchers.
Eating a diet rich in tomato products and other antioxidant-containing
fruits and vegetables is certainly a smart move, Paran
said. But, she added, a person would need to down about
four tomatoes to get the nutrients in one tomato extract
In addition, Paran said, lycopene and other antioxidant
compounds in tomatoes are fat-soluble, so they are more
readily absorbed when taken with the oil used in the capsule.
However, she and her colleagues note that larger and
longer-term studies are still needed to determine where
tomato extracts fit into high blood pressure management.