Scientists have uncovered a possible new option in the fight against LDL or "bad cholesterol" build up in the human body. Researchers at UCLA have genetically engineered tomatoes to imitate the advantages of HDL or "good cholesterol."

The research team introduced the peptide 6F into artificial tomatoes and fed them to female mice that were bred to be incapable of breaking down LDL. 6F has the ability to mimic the benefits of apoA-1, the key protein found in HDL.

After eating a high-fat diet, the mice typically experienced inflammation and atherosclerosis, a build-up of plaque in the arteries that may cause a heart attack or stroke.The mice experienced less inflammation and plaque build-up after eating the genetically engineered tomatoes.

"This is one of the first examples of a peptide that acts like the main protein in good cholesterol and can be delivered by simply eating the plant," said senior author Dr. Alan M. Fogelman. "There was no need to isolate or purify the peptide -- it was fully active after the plant was eaten."

Researchers chose tomatoes because as fruit they can be eaten without having been cooked which can break down the peptide before it is ingested.

Possibly the most interesting fact about the study was discovered hours after the tomatoes had been eaten. Researchers were astonished to find that the peptide had made its way to the small intestine instead of the blood stream and was still fully intact.

The study's corresponding author, Srinavasa T. Reddy said: "It seems likely that the mechanism of action of the peptide-enhanced tomatoes involves altering lipid metabolism in the intestine, which positively impacts cholesterol."