Tomatoes created to mimic good cholesterol
Genetically-engineered food remains a controversial subject, but scientists at UCLA are providing more evidence that it can bring valuable health benefits. They say they’ve successfully created a version of tomatoes that produces a peptide that mimics the actions of "good" HDL cholesterol when eaten. Mice who were fed the tomatoes in freeze-dried form had less inflammation and plaque build-up in their arteries, according to the study published in the Journal of Lipid Research.
The scientists genetically modified the tomatoes to produce 6F, a peptide that mimics the chief protein in HDL cholesterol. Despite being fed a high-fat diet, lab mice that were allowed to eat the tomatoes had lower levels of inflammation and higher levels of good cholesterol. After the tomatoes were eaten, the peptide was found to be active in the small intestine but not in the blood, suggesting that targeting the small intestine as a strategy for preventing atherosclerosis, the plaque-based disease of the arteries that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Tomato consumption also increased levels of paraxonase activity, an antioxidant enzyme associated with good cholesterol, and decreased lysophosphatidic acid, a tumor-producer that accelerates plaque build-up.
This is one of the first examples of such benefits being delivered by eating a plant, the researchers said.