Better heart health could be as simple as enjoying a glass of unsalted tomato juice every day.
In a new report in Food Science & Nutrition, Japanese researchers reveal that a year-long study showed some participants who drank an average of about one cup of unsalted tomato juice each day lowered their blood pressure over the course of the 12 months.
This select group of participants also reduced their LDL (bad) cholesterol — the kind that’s commonly associated with heart disease and plaque formation in arteries.
Both of these possible healthy results could reduce a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), the leading cause of death in Americans.
Each year, more than 610,000 peopleTrusted Source die as a result of heart disease. CVD accounts for 1 in every 4 deaths. That’s why researchers are always looking for alternative therapies that might help patients, including easy nutrition choices like tomato juice.
The researchers, who were from Tokyo Medical and Dental University and Tucson Plant Breeding Institute, recruited 184 males and 297 females to take part in the study.
The participants were allowed to drink as much unsalted tomato juice as they wanted over the course of the year. They were only asked to record how much they drank and then return those logs to the researchers every three months.
At the end of the study, the researchers revealed that 94 of the participants, people who had untreated prehypertension or hypertension at the beginning of the study, saw a decline in their blood pressure numbers.
The average systolic blood pressure (the top number) went from 141.2 to 137.0 mmHg, and the average diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) decreased from 83.3 to 80.9 mmHg.
This might not seem like a lot, but it’s enough to move hypertension stages, according to the American Heart Association.
The average first numbers would put a person on the edge of stage 2 hypertension. With these subtle shifts downward, a person moves to stage 1.
This same smaller group of study participants also showed a drop in their total cholesterol numbers, going from 155.0 at the start of the study to 149.9 mg/dL at the end.
But before you start swigging away at a bottle of the fruit juice, this study comes with some important caveats.
First, the researchers were funded by Kikkoman Corporation, which is known for making a variety of soy sauces in the United States. In Asia, they also hold all the exclusive marketing rights for Del Monte, a vegetable brand that makes, among other things, unsalted tomato juice.
Kikkoman also paid for a 2015 study by this same set of scientists. That report found that unsalted tomato juice helped lower levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in blood, in middle-aged women over an eight-week study.
Coincidentally, this year-long study showed no change in triglycerides or in HDL (good) cholesterol, even among study participants who had elevated triglyceride numbers at the start of the study.
The researchers also did no diet analysis of the study participants. It’s a reasonable assumption that adults who knew they were hypertensive or prehypertensive may have taken steps over the course of a year to affect their health for the better.
Without a diet analysis, it’s hard to know if the changes were because of the juice or other beneficial diet modifications.
The researchers completed their study without receiving a lifestyle and medical treatment questionnaire from more than half the study participants.
Here again, changes during the year-long study could point to other potential factors that might influence the results the scientists found. Without this information, it’s difficult to give a proper examination.
What’s more, the researchers did not have a comparison study. It’s possible another group of individuals, ones who didn’t drink the tomato juice, would also experience similar results. Without the side-by-side study, it’s impossible to know the true impact the juice had.
Lastly, the researchers did not find these changes to CVD risk in the overall, larger group. It was only when they narrowed their focus to people who had preexisting hypertension or prehypertension that the results showed. This type of post-hoc analysis is generally frowned upon in academic research because it’s not seen as particularly reliable.
Besides being delicious on a burger, as a salad topper, or simply sliced and served with fresh mozzarella cheese, tomatoes are a powerhouse of nutrition.
Whether or not they truly lower cholesterol and blood pressure — more extensive studies will be needed for confirmation — they do have a lot of benefits that are supported by decades of research.
“Like with many vegetables, tomato juice is rich in vitamins and minerals,” said Dr. Nicole Weinberg, a cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “It is high in vitamin C and B, as well as potassium.”
Rich in antioxidants
Tomatoes are rich in bioactive compounds called carotenoids, which have been shown to have many healthful benefits. Lycopene, a type of carotenoid, is thought to have strong antioxidant activity, which could help prevent cancer.
May improve CVD risk factors
“Potassium is a mineral associated with lowering blood pressure and improved cardiovascular health,” said Allie Gregg, RD, founder of MyEasyVeganDiet.com. “The concentration of vitamins and minerals are higher in juice given the large amount of tomatoes that need to be juiced to make up what you are drinking.”
Could act as a fertility booster
“Tomato juice consumed daily may help men support their fertility,” said Lauren Manaker, a dietitian that focuses on reproductive health and author of Fueling Male Fertility. “One study comparing men who drank tomato juice daily for 12 weeks versus an antioxidant supplement showed better fertility parameters after the study time. This may be due to the high concentration of the antioxidant lycopene found naturally in tomato juice.”
If you want to sip on some tomato juice in hopes it helps your heart’s health, there’s no reason you can’t. Just be sure to get the unsalted kind, and look for other ways to improve your heart health, including a balanced diet and regular exercise.
Also, consider adding another powerhouse healthy ingredient: olive oil.
“I would strongly recommend if you sip on unsalted tomato juice for the cardioprotective health benefits, you might want to add a teaspoon of cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil since research has also showcased that phytonutrient-rich foods are best absorbed with healthy fats, such as olive oil,” said Stella Metsovas, a clinical nutritionist and author of Wild Mediterranean