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Can Spaghetti Sauce Prevent a Stroke?

Good news, Italian-food lovers: A new study finds that eating lots of tomatoes and tomato-based foods like spaghetti sauce is associated with a lower risk of stroke.

Tomatoes, you might remember, are high in the antioxidant lycopene, which gives tomatoes their red color.

The study of 1,031 older men in Finland found that those who had the highest amount of lycopene in their blood were 55 percent less likely to have a stroke than those with the lowest amounts. The study was published today in the journal Neurology.

"This study adds to the evidence that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of stroke," study author Jouni Karppi, of the University of Eastern Finland, said in a prepared statement.

The men, ages 45 to 65, had their blood tested for lycopene and other antioxidants at the start of the study and then were followed for 12 years. During that time 67 men had a stroke. Among the men with the lowest levels of lycopene, 25 of 258 men had a stroke. Among those with the highest lycopene levels, however, only 11 of 259 men had a stroke.

According to the study, when researchers looked only at strokes caused by blood clots - called ischemic strokes, the most common kind - the results were even stronger. Those with the highest levels of lycopene were nearly 60 percent less likely to have an ischemic stroke than those with the lowest levels, researchers said. (Ischemic strokes account for 87 percent of all stroke cases, notes the American Stroke Association.)

Why does lycopene seem to help? Researchers don't know exactly; they just know there's a strong association. It could be because people who eat more tomatoes tend to be healthier, or that lycopene has powers we don't yet understand. For now, we just know that eating spaghetti sauce - like this recipe for a super-tomatoey one - apparently has this welcome benefit.

In other health news:

Peanut and almond butter recall expanded. At first it was just a brand of peanut and nut butters sold at Trader Joe's that was being recalled for suspected salmonella contamination. But now the Food and Drug Administration has announcedthat Sunland Inc. has expanded its recall to include nut butters and other nut products sold at Target, Fresh & Easy, Costco and other stores, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has a page about the recall.

Alzheimer's drug leads to some improvement in mild cases. An experimental Alzheimer's drug has shown it slows memory loss in people with mild, early-stage cases, USA Today reports. Researchers said the drug, called solanezumab, improved memory by about a third, but results were still inconsistent.

Photo: Georgia Glynn Smith/Getty Images

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