Just one serving a day of tomato-based foods such as pizza or tomato sauce could lower your risk for heart disease by as much as 30 percent, according to a new Harvard study. "The results are pretty enticing," says study author Howard Sesso, an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "They're encouraging enough for us to do more studies."
Sesso and his colleagues reviewed the diets of approximately 40,000 women from the ongoing Women's Health Study, which was begun 11 years ago to follow women who, at the time, were free from cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Controlling for factors such as age, family history, smoking status and other health indicators, they found that women who consumed seven or more servings of tomato-based foods a week -- including tomato juice, tomatoes, tomato sauce or pizza -- had a nearly 30 percent reduction in risk for cardiovascular disease compared with women who ate less than one and one-half servings a week.
"It could be the diet itself, one that includes more fruits and vegetables," he says. "Those people would have a better cardiovascular profile. It's hard to be specific," he says of the findings, "but there's a potential that regular servings of tomatoes can have a dramatic effect on cardiovascular risk."