What do your platelets say about you?
You may not know this, but your blood platelet behavior can provide a snapshot of your lifestyle and general cardiovascular health.
The workings of these cell fragments are a mystery to many of us. And yet they hold great power – our platelets govern the liquidity of our blood, and are capable of turning flowing blood into a gel in our vessels, if correctly stimulated. For all their importance, platelets are hostage to our diet and lifestyle, as platelets have no nucleus and rely on the blood plasma contents to supply their needs.
A diet high in fish, vegetables and grains, combined with frequent moderate exercise, assures platelet responsiveness in times of crisis – a bleeding injury – while also supporting a non-adhesive surface during normal circulation. A poor quality diet, high in sugar and animal fats, added to a typical sedentary 21st century lifestyle, results in platelets with stickier membranes which can be ‘trigger happy’. Platelets with these characteristics can build up small clots in the blood vessels by bumping into each other during normal circulation, a condition known as platelet hypersensitivity. Unfortunately, platelet hypersensitivity has a wide prevalence, especially in aging Westernized populations. And it has serious consequences, speeding up development of atherosclerosis, and contributing to poor outcomes from cardiac or circulatory events like heart attacks or strokes.
So how can we address hyperactive platelets before they cause problems?
In a recently published paper , we gave an overview of the development of a tomato-derived antiplatelet from a recently discovered extract Fruitflow®. We were able to identify the antiplatelet principles of the tomato, quantify them, find a way of concentrating them, and test the efficacy of the resulting concentrate in nine separate human intervention studies. We now know that the concentrate contains three different groups of antiplatelet compounds, which work together to target different platelet aggregation pathways and help circulating platelets keep their outer membrane surface non-adherent. In the European Union, the water soluble tomato concentrate was the first ingredient for use in food applications and food supplements to obtain an approved 13.5 health claim back in 2009. The positive assessment by EFSA recognized the role of the tomato concentrate in maintaining normal platelet aggregation and contributing to healthy blood flow.
Consuming an antiplatelet drug such as low-dose aspirin would reduce platelet aggregability about three times more effectively than the tomato extract we have identified does. However, such levels of efficacy are known to be associated with internal bleeding and to be unsafe for healthy people. Fruitflow® is not associated with such side effects.
1. O’Kennedy N, Raedersdorff R and Duttaroy AK. Fruitflow®: the first European Food Safety Authority‑approved natural cardio‑protective functional ingredient. Eur J Nutr 2016. DOI 10.1007/s00394-016-1265-2.