London: A new study suggests that regularly eating lycopene - an antioxidant which gives tomatoes their rich red colour - could decrease the risk of heart disease by a quarter.
The scientists at Tufts University in Boston, reached their findings after analysing data gathered over more than a decade to see the effects of lycopene intake on the cardiovascular system.
They compared hundreds of patients, who took part in a long-running heart disease project called the Framingham Offspring Study that was carried out in the US.
In the study, participants had recorded their dietary patterns, including whether tomatoes or tomato products were a regular part of their diet.
The results showed that eating lycopene-containing foods on a regular basis over an 11-year period reduced the risk of coronary heart disease by 26 percent but had no effect on the chances of a stroke.
The researchers said on their findings that lycopene appeared to shield against heart disease but stressed more studies are needed to be certain if it is the lycopene and not something else that is providing protection.
The findings have been published in the latest British Journal of Nutrition.