Remember how much fun it was to shoot watermelon pits out of your mouth as a kid? Who knew then that you were also building up an arsenal of amino acids to fight pre-hypertension, a precursor to cardiovascular disease.
Sweet, low-calorie, high in fiber, and nutrient rich watermelon (which is in season from late July through November) is now a hot topic in medicine with data coming out of Florida State University. Evidence from a pilot study led by food scientists is suggesting that watermelon can be an effective natural weapon, in keeping with the theory of food as medicine. It’s also noteworthy to mention that this is the first investigation of its kind being studied on humans.
FSU Assistant Professor Arturo Figueroa and Professor Bahram H. Arjmandi found that when six grams of the amino acids L-citrulline/L-arginine from watermelon extract were administered daily for six weeks, there was improved function in the arteries, which in turn caused lower aortic blood pressure in all nine of the pre-hypertensive subjects (four men and five postmenopausal women, ages 51-57).
Taking L-arginine as a dietary supplement isn’t an option for many hypertensive adults, says Figueroa, because it can cause nausea, gastrointestinal tract discomfort, and diarrhea.
In addition to the vascular benefits, watermelon provides abundant vitamin A, B6, C, fiber, potassium and lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Findings from Figueroa’s latest pilot study at Florida State are described in the American Journal of Hypertension.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) continues to be the leading cause of death in the United States, so start slicing. And here are a few recipes to get you started, from a Mediterranean Watermelon Salad to Grilled Scallop and Watermelon Kabobs.
For more information on heart disease visit the American Heart Association.