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First-ever 'Sacratomato Week' coming in July to celebrate local tomatoes

Tomatoes are Earth's second most popular plant food, when it comes to eats for most people, and the potato is first. Both come from the nightshade family, and can aggravate arthritis, if one is sensitive to nightshade vegetables. you may wish to check out the Smithsonian magazine's Science section article, "A Passion for Tomatoes." But why do so many Sacramento supermarkets have packaged and/or loose tomatoes that say, "product of Mexico" on them instead of locally grown tomatoes? For example, you can find tomatoes of various colors that are packed in various supermarkets marked with "product of Mexico" signs on their plastic wraps or containers.

First-ever 'Sacratomato Week' coming in July to celebrate local tomatoes.
Anne Hart, photography. Salad of tomatoes, greens, jicama, and mango chunks.

If California produces about 96 percent of all processing tomatoes grown in the United States, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, with Yolo County alone putting out 1.5 million tons of tomatoes in 2013, then why can't Sacramentans buy local organic tomatoes in many supermarkets? To find organic tomatoes, you frequently have to go to a more expensive natural food market that carries mostly or all organic produce, usually at a higher cost. But besides the price difference, even the farmers markets in Sacramento don't have very many organic tomatoes that are certified organic.

You frequently have to grow your own in your yard or in a container on your apartment balcony to get organic tomatoes at affordable prices. On the other hand, if you buy tomato plants in the early spring at various stores that sell the plants, you have to hunt for those marked with 'organic' signs, as most of the plants are hybrids that are not necessarily organic. Then again, everything edible usually has a price.

You may wish to check out the June 25, 2014 The Sacramento Bee news article by Will Wright, "First-ever 'Sacratomato Week' coming in July." From July 21-27, 2014 you can celebrate Sacramento's first tomato week. The inspiration for the week-long event comes from Sacramento being one of the larger producers of tomatoes in the state.

First-ever 'Sacratomato Week' coming: To be held July 21-27, 2014

All of the restaurants in Sacramento's Sutter District are participating by offering dishes that shine a spotlight on the local tomatoes they source. During Sacratomato Week the spotlight will showcase local farmers and local chefs who are participating.

This is the first salute to tomatoes week in Sacramento. Next year it is hoped that the tomato-themed week will be even bigger, with a festival at the end celebrating local farms and the chefs that use their products. But how many tomatoes and other ingredients in the foods that are going to be sold are organic, just in case that's what people choose to seek out?

Tomatoes and other vegetables and fruits contain lycopene

A daily supplement of that lycopene extract found in tomatoes may improve the function of blood vessels in patients with cardiovascular disease, according to new research, "Effects of Oral Lycopene Supplementation on Vascular Function in Patients with Cardiovascular Disease and Healthy Volunteers: A Randomised Controlled Trial," published June 9, 2014 in the journal Plos One. The study's conclusions reported that lycopene supplementation improves endothelial function in cardiovascular disease patients on optimal secondary prevention, but not in healthy volunteers.

A tomato 'pill' improves the function of blood vessels in patients with cardiovascular disease, says new research. The latest study reports that a daily supplement of an extract found in tomatoes may improve the function of blood vessels in patients with cardiovascular disease, according to new research from the University of Cambridge.

In a study published in the journal PLOS One, researchers at the University of Cambridge and the Cambridge University Hospitals National Health Service Foundation Trust demonstrate one mechanism by which they believe lycopene reduces the risk. The incidence of cardiovascular disease varies worldwide, but is notably reduced in southern Europe, where a 'Mediterranean diet' consisting of a larger consumption of fruit, vegetables and olive oil predominates. Recent dietary studies suggest that this diet reduces the incidence of events related to the disease, including heart attack and stroke, in patients at high cardiovascular risk, or those who have previously had the disease.

Lycopene from vegetables or fruits, to the rescue?

One component of the Mediterranean diet thought to play a role in reducing this risk is lycopene, a powerful antioxidant which is ten times more potent than vitamin E. Lycopene is found in tomatoes and other fruits, and its potency appears to be enhanced when it is consumed pureed, in ketchup or in the presence of olive oil. Whilst there is strong epidemiological evidence to support the role of lycopene in reducing cardiovascular risk, the mechanism by which it does so is unclear.

If you're not eating tomatoes because, like potatoes and bell peppers, these vegetables come from the nighsthade family that may irritate arthritis in some people, lycopene can be found in other vegetables and fruits in addition to tomatoes. Dr Joseph Cheriyan, consultant clinical pharmacologist and physician at Addenbrooke's Hospital and Associate Lecturer at the University of Cambridge, says, according to the June 9, 2014 news release, 'Tomato pill' improves function of blood vessels in patients with cardiovascular disease, "There's a wealth of research that suggests that the Mediterranean diet – which includes lycopene found in tomatoes and other fruit as a component – is good for our cardiovascular health. But so far, it's been a mystery what the underlying mechanisms could be."

The researchers carried out a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, interventional trial investigating the effects of lycopene a gold standard method of measuring the function of blood vessels called forearm blood flow, which is predictive of future cardiovascular risk. Thirty-six cardiovascular disease patients and thirty-six healthy volunteers were given either Ateronon (an off-the-shelf supplement containing 7mg of lycopene) or a placebo treatment. As a double blind trial, neither the study participants nor the researchers dispensing the pills were aware which treatment was being provided.

Acetylcholine and having a healthy endothelial function

The patients with cardiovascular disease were all on statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs). However, despite this, they still had a relatively impaired function of the endothelium – the inner lining of blood vessels – compared to healthy volunteers. This function is determined by the response of blood vessels in the forearm to a naturally occurring molecule called acetylcholine. Endothelial function predicts future events, so having a healthy endothelium is an important factor in preventing the evolution of heart disease.

The researchers found that 7mg of oral lycopene supplementation improved and normalized endothelial function in the patients, but not in healthy volunteers. Lycopene improved the widening of the blood vessels by over a half (53%) compared to baseline in those taking the pill after correction for those who took the placebo. Constriction of the blood vessels is one of the key factors that can lead to heart attack and stroke. However, the supplement had no effect on blood pressure, arterial stiffness or levels of lipids.

Lycopene may improve the function of blood vessels in those with cardiovascular disease

"We've shown quite clearly that lycopene improves the function of blood vessels in cardiovascular disease patients," adds Dr Cheriyan , according to the news release. "It reinforces the need for a healthy diet in people at risk from heart disease and stroke. A daily 'tomato pill' is not a substitute for other treatments, but may provide added benefits when taken alongside other medication. However, we cannot answer whether this may reduce heart disease – this would need much larger trials to investigate outcomes more carefully."

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, says, according to the news release, "Impaired endothelial function is a known predictor of increased risk of future heart disease. Further work is needed to understand whether the beneficial effects seen in this small study translate into clinical benefit for at-risk patients."

The study was funded and sponsored by Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, with further support including the Wellcome Trust, the British Heart Foundation and the National Institute of Health Research Cambridge Comprehensive Biomedical Research Center.