Eating a diet rich in tomatoes and tomato-based foods is associated with a lower risk of stroke, according to research published in the Oct. 9 issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Tomatoes are high in the antioxidant lycopene. The study found people with the highest amounts of lycopene in their blood were 55 percent less likely to have a stroke than people with the lowest amounts of lycopene in their blood.

Researchers tested the blood of 1,031 men in Finland between the ages of 46 and 65 and followed them for an average of 12 years. During that time, 67 men had a stroke. Among 258 men with the lowest levels of lycopene, 25 had a stroke. Among 259 men with the highest levels of lycopene, 11 had a stroke.

When researchers looked at strokes entirely due to blood clots, the results were even stronger. Those with the highest levels of lycopene were 59 percent less likely to have a clot-caused stroke than those with the lowest levels.

The study also looked at alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol and retinol, but found no association between the blood levels of those antioxidants and risk of stroke.

— Anne Aurand, The Bulletin