Here is a breakdown of what we know:
LDL is the bad part of our cholesterol. When it becomes “oxidized” due to a process called oxidative stress, oxidized LDL leads to cholesterol accumulation that forms plaques in the arteries of our bodies, in particular, the coronary arteries. These plaques can rupture and cause a heart attack. In studies of healthy people, as well as those with type 2 diabetes, consumption of tomatoes or tomato products decreased levels of oxidized LDL.
Markers of inflammation in our body have been shown to be associated with risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and atrial fibrillation. Tomato consumption has been shown to reduce some of these markers of inflammation suggesting an improvement in inflammatory status particularly in overweight and obese people.
In patients with pre-high blood pressure (prehypertension) or hypertension, tomato and tomato product consumption has a modest lowering effect on both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. This can be seen as early as 8 weeks after starting frequent consumption.
Potential benefit after a heart attack
In two animal studies, rats were either treated with lycopene or a placebo for 30 days. After 30 days, a heart attack was caused in all the rats. Those rats treated with lycopene had a better blood pressure and less heart tissue/cell loss if they had received lycopene. These interesting findings need to be studied in humans to see if our bodies and hearts respond in a similar manner.
Improved survival in patients with heart failure. In a study of 212 patients with heart failure, higher lycopene intake from tomatoes was associated with improved survival. In fact, patients with low lycopene intake were 3.3 times more likely to die compared to those with high lycopene intake.
Reduced risk of stroke
In a study of 1,031 men from Finland, high lycopene consumption from tomatoes was associated with a significantly lower risk of stroke compared to men with a low consumption. In this study, stroke risk was reduced by 65 percent with high lycopene consumption.