Watermelon has been found to be a natural weapon against pre-hypertension, a precursor to cardiovascular disease, revealed researchers at The Florida State University (FSU), following evidence from their pilot study.
Watermelon, despite its sweetness, is a low calorie, high fiber, nutrient-rich fruit. The investigation, first of its kind in humans, was carried out by FSU Assistant Professor Arturo Figueroa and Professor Bahram H. Arjmandi.
The study involved administration of six grams of amino acid, L-citrulline/L-arginine, from watermelon extract, daily for six weeks, to men and women in the age group 51 to 57. The results showed improved arterial function and consequently lower aortic blood pressure in all pre-hypertensive subjects.
The findings suggest that this ˜functional food does have vaso-dilatory effect, and can prevent pre-high blood pressure from progressing into full-blown hypertension, one of the major risk factors for strokes and heart attacks.
Watermelon, in particular, is being chosen for the study, as it is the richest edible natural source of L-citrulline, which is closely related to L-arginine, the amino said required for formation of nitric oxide to regulate vascular tone and healthy blood pressure, Prof. Figueroa noted.
However, just consuming L-arginine as dietary supplement may not be an option, as it may cause gastrointestinal tract discomfort, nausea and diarrhea. But, watermelon, on the other hand, is well-tolerated, Figueroa noted.
Further, according to Figueroa, oral supplementation of L-citrulline may permit reduced dosage of anti-hypertensive drugs necessary to control blood pressure.
Although, watermelon extract is the best natural source for L-Citrulline, it is also available in the form of pills, as those with high blood pressure and arterial stiffness, particularly those with chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, will benefit from L-Citrulline in either natural or synthetic form. The recommended dosage may be four to six grams a day, Figueroa said.
Apart from the vascular benefits of L-citrulline, Watermelon is also an abundant source of vitamin A, C, B6, potassium, fiber and lycopene, the powerful antioxidant.