'Tomato Pill' Could Cut Heart Attack Risk

The Mediterranean diet has long been hailed as the secret to a long life and now it has been harnessed in a so-called 'tomato pill'.

Scientists hope it could cut the risks of strokes and heart attacks and even fight cancer.

The pill, called Ateronon, contains a chemical known as lycopene, which is found in the skin of ripe tomatoes and has been shown to help unclog blocked arteries.

Clinical trials have shown that the pill makes patients' blood vessels more efficient, boosts blood flow and softens arteries which can harden with age, in some cases by up to 50%.

Dr Peter John Kirkpatrick, medical adviser to CamNutra, which has developed Ateronon, told Sky News: "It means we could potentially provide the protection found in a Mediterranean diet simply in one pill.

"This provides enough concentrations of the lycopene to be absorbed by the blood and protect us from future cardiovascular disease.

"Tests show that results improve a further 50% when used with statins, which is unprecedented."

Heart disease is the biggest killer in the UK, accounting for more than a third of all deaths and some 191,000 annually.

Plans are being drawn up for long-term trials involving hundreds of people so a comparison can be made of the effects of Ateronon on healthy people and those with pre-existing heart disease.

The British Heart Foundation , which partially funded the research, has given a cautious welcome to the findings.

Mike Knapton, associate medical director said: "Although this small study showed that lycopene improved blood flow in people with heart disease, that's a long way from demonstrating that taking lycopene could improve outcomes for people with heart disease.

"We still say the best way to get the benefits of a Mediterranean diet is to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables."