ISLAMABAD - Taking a tomato pill a day could help keep heart disease at bay, say UK scientists who have carried out a small but robust study.

The pill contains lycopene, a natural antioxidant that also gives tomatoes their colour. A daily 'tomato pill' is not a substitute for other treatments, but may provide added benefits when taken alongside other medication" Experts have suspected for some time that lycopene might be good for avoiding illnesses, including certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. There is some evidence that eating a Mediterranean-style diet, which is rich in tomatoes (as well as other fruit and vegetables and olive oil), is beneficial for health. Following a healthy diet is still advisable but scientists have been researching whether there is a way to put at least some of this good stuff into an easy-to-take pill. Working independently of CTL, and instead funded by the Wellcome Trust, the British Heart Foundation and the National Institute of Health Research, a team at Cambridge University set out to see if the pill would have the desired effect. In the heart disease patients, the tomato pill improved forearm blood flow significantly, while the placebo did not. The supplement had no effect on blood pressure, arterial stiffness or levels of fats in the blood, however. A natural antioxidant - substances thought to protect the body's cells from damage. Found in tomatoes, but also in apricots, watermelon and papaya as well as pink grapefruit. Lycopene content varies according to the variety of tomato and how it is prepared eg. puree, ketchup, cooked or raw It is unclear whether supplements would ever be able to replace the benefits of a varied diet.