GM tomatoes could unclog arteries and prevent heart attacks

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 4:10am

Tomatoes genetically engineered to unclog arteries and a strain of a bacteria in yogurt designed to lower cholesterol are among a new wave of alternative remedies showing promise in the fight against heart disease.

Scientists presented two studies on Monday at the American Heart Association meeting in Los Angeles that suggest food may be altered in such a way that it offers benefits similar to traditional pharmaceuticals.

In one study, researchers fed mice pieces of tomatoes altered to produce a peptide that mimics effects of artery-clearing HDL cholesterol. In a second, people were given a twice-daily capsule of a probiotic, made from yogurt bacteria. In both cases, the results showed significant heart-health benefits, and researchers said they may add to cholesterol-reducing drugs such as statins in the fight against heart disease.

"[Statins] haven't completely reduced the number of people still dying of heart attack and stroke and those numbers are still quite significant," said Alan Fogelman, the lead author on the tomato study and a cardiology researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles.

In the tomato study, sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health, the mice displayed reduced plaque and higher HDL. The experimental drug is the first of its kind made in a plant that can be eaten, the researchers said. Separately, the probiotic trial, done in 127 people, found the yogurt bacteria helped cut total cholesterol by 9.1 per cent.