Watermelon is Tasty Way to Lower Blood Pressure
Summer may be fading, but there’s a summertime tradition that you might want to keep on hand year round: watermelon. A pilot study conducted at The Florida State University indicates that an amino acid in watermelon can help lower blood pressure in prehypertensive individuals.
Watermelon contains a blood pressure lowering ingredient
Food scientists Professor Arturo Figueroa and Professor Bahram H. Arjmandi evaluated nine men and women ages 51 to 57 who had prehypertension, a condition that is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Prehypertension is defined as a systolic blood pressure reading of 120-139 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) over diastolic pressure of 80-89 mmHg. About 60 percent of adults in the United States are prehypertensive or hypertensive.
For six weeks, the study participants consumed 6 grams of the amino acid L-citrulline/L-arginine from watermelon extract. Figueroa explained that watermelon was chosen because it “is the richest edible natural source of L-citrulline, which is closely related to L-arginine, the amino acid required for the formation of nitric oxide essential to the regulation of vascular tone and healthy blood pressure.”
Once L-citrulline enters the body, it is transformed into L-arginine. Although arginine supplements can be taken to create nitric oxide needed to lower blood pressure, many people with high blood pressure cannot tolerate arginine because it can cause nausea, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal problems. Eating watermelon avoids these side effects.
The scientists found that all nine subjects exhibited an improvement in arterial function and thus experienced lower blood pressure. This study was the first to “document improved aortic hemodynamics in prehypertensive but otherwise healthy middle-aged men and women receiving therapeutic doses of watermelon,” noted Figueroa.
Figueroa also pointed out that L-citrulline supplements may allow people with high blood pressure to reduce their dosage of antihypertensive drugs. “Even better, it may prevent the progression from prehypertension to hypertension in the first place,” he said.
Figueroa also had positive results in a previous study in which younger male subjects took L-citrulline supplements for four weeks. The participants experienced a slowed or weakened increase in their aortic blood pressure in response to cold. This finding was significant given that more myocardial infarctions occur during cold winter months.
The promising results of the new pilot study are enough for the scientists to want to conduct additional studies of the impact of watermelon on blood pressure. For now, Figueroa maintains that individuals who have elevated blood pressure and arterial stiffness “would benefit from L-citrulline in either the synthetic or natural (watermelon) form.”
Florida State University