Back in 2013 and 2014, there was some buzz about a new pill that could combat heart disease on an unprecedented level. It unclogged blocked arteries. It actually reversed hardening of the arteries. And it lowered cholesterol more effectively than statins—all for a few dollars and all without side effects.
It sounds too good to be true, but the claims were all backed by solid studies. The pill was manufactured by a biotech company that was a spin-out of respected Cambridge University in the UK. It was marketed under the name Ateronon and it's still on the market today. You can buy it on Amazon for around 22 bucks for a month's supply. And you've probably never heard of it.
Why? Because it wasn't a pharmaceutical drug. It was a dietary supplement. And you know what that means: Big Pharma stood to lose money. And of course we can't take cash out of Big Pharma's pockets, no matter how many lives it saves.
But wait—haven't I read about this before?
Stories about this non-drug have actually been popping up periodically for quite a few years. The first references are from clear back in 2009. The pill's creators present their studies. The media gets excited and runs news stories, quoting doctors saying this pill will totally change the way we "treat" high cholesterol. Then a dissenting voice pulls out the old, "Be cautious. We need more studies. Keep taking your drugs like a good little zombie" line.
In 2010, the same thing happens—only there are more studies. Again in 2011, then in 2013 and '14, the same scenario plays out. After 2014 it fades from the radar, and is never heard of again. What happened? Were there additional studies that found out it didn't work after all? Or that there were dangerous side effects? Or some other dark secret we weren't told?
Not at all. The evidence still stands. But we'll never see it marketed as the next blockbuster drug simply because Big Pharma can't corner the market on it. Here's why.
The active ingredient in Ateronon is lycopene, a naturally-occurring antioxidant. It's the compound that gives pink and red fruits like grapefruits and tomatoes their color, and tomatoes are particularly high in it. What the manufacturers of this pill did was use a form of lycopene more easily absorbed by the body than what we find in tomatoes and put it in a pill form. The news outlets were calling it the "tomato pill."
Now, Big Pharma could have tweaked lycopene's chemical structure, patented it, and sold it as a new drug that cost umpteen gazillion dollars, and it might be surprising that they didn't. After all, that's exactly what they did with fish oil. But if they had, they would have immediately faced stiff competition from the product already on the market. So they did the next best thing. They killed the story. And they did it very, very subtly.
How Big Pharma wins the battle without firing a shot
Each and every news story about lycopene or Ateronon has a "poison pill" buried in it, no matter how positive the article is. It's intended to negate every single positive word in the rest of the article, and it's placed so that it's what you'll remember most clearly later when you recall the article. Here's what they do:
There's a quote from an "expert," often someone with the American Heart Association or its UK counterpart. The expert may or may not even be a doctor. And they say, "This is very promising, BUT let's withhold judgement until we have more research." Or they say, "This is very promising, BUT we've been saying for years that the Mediterranean Diet prevents heart disease. Just eat a Mediterranean diet instead." Or more bluntly, "Who cares what the research shows? We need more studies. And until then, keep taking your pills. Ignore this."
These quotes are always dropped in at the end, so they're the last thing you read and the thing you remember the most easily. They're intended to get you to dismiss the rest of the contents of the article—all the doctors and researchers who're talking about what an exciting discovery this is.
And this tactic works. That's why, in a legal trial, the defense gets to speak last—so you'll remember what they said the clearest and be more inclined to give the accused the benefit of the doubt. It's a tactic so subtle that you probably don't even realize it's affecting you. The same tactic is used on the doctors who could recommend this stuff, or even a diet naturally high in it.
Because if they did recommend it on a regular basis, statin sales would take a big hit. And statins are the most profitable drugs on the market. They're the cash cow of the pharmaceutical world, and Big Pharma, as we know, won't stand for anything that cuts into their sales.
Here's what you need to know about lycopene and the "tomato pill"
- Studies in 2012 and 2014 found that lycopene cut the risk of stroke by anywhere from 19% to 55%
- A 2009 study found it was more effective than statins at lowering cholesterol—without any side effects
- It's been shown to reduce the arterial plaque that clogs arteries It helps lower blood pressure
- And some studies have found that it actually reverses hardening of the arteries
That's pretty impressive. And while the "tomato pill" is a quick and easy way to get a hefty daily dose of this nutrient, you can get a comparable amount of lycopene naturally from your diet if you eat real food. Tomatoes have the highest content, and cooked tomatoes have more than raw ones. Watermelon, pink grapefruit, and guavas are also high in lycopene. To get the benefit of the "tomato pill" without the pill, try adding one of the following to your diet on a daily basis:
- A cup of tomato juice
- Half a cup of spaghetti sauce
- 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
- A half-cup of tomato sauce
- A slice of watermelon
- or 2 grapefruits
Eating your way to better health doesn't cost you much more than you already spend on groceries. And money aside—it's a lot easier to swallow.