(NaturalNews) If you suffer from hypertension, a sweeter and juicier way to keep your blood pressure under control may be in the horizon. A recent study by Florida State University (FSU) found that subjects who took six grams of an extract derived from watermelon for six weeks had an increased aortic blood flow and consequently lowered blood pressure.
All the nine subjects -- four men and five postmenopausal women between the age of 51 and 57 years old -- were prehypertensive. Blood pressure readings with a systolic pressure from 120 to 139 mm Hg, or a diastolic pressure from 80 to 89 mm Hg are considered prehypertension. When readings go above or equal to 140/90 mm Hg, it is hypertension, or high blood pressure.
"We are the first to document improved aortic hemodynamics in prehypertensive but otherwise healthy middle-aged men and women receiving therapeutic doses of watermelon," said FSU Assistant Professor Arturo Figueroa. "These findings suggest that this 'functional food' has a vasodilatory effect, and one that may prevent prehypertension from progressing to full-blown hypertension, a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes."
The watermelon extract that the participants took daily contained both L-citrulline and L-arginine amino acids. In the body, L-citrulline is converted into L-arginine, which in turn is broken down by enzymes to generate nitric oxide. Although nitric oxide is an air pollutant for the environment, it is an important messaging molecule in the body of all mammals, including humans, and it plays a critical role in the regulation of vascular tone and blood pressure.
Although taking L-arginine by itself seems to be a good way to lower blood pressure, it is not an option for many hypertension patients due to its possible side effects, such as nausea, diarrhea and gastrointestinal discomfort.
Watermelon, on the other hand, has none of these effects. Besides containing rich L-citrulline in its rind, watermelon also provides other important nutrients like vitamin A, B6, C, fiber, potassium and lycopene (which was once thought to be a tomato-only antioxidant).
The results of this study, which appeared in American Journal of Hypertension, may pave the way for a L-citrulline supplement to be used in prehypertension as well as hypertension treatment. A watermelon extract would prevent the onset of hypertension altogether.
The benefits of watermelon don't end there though. A study conducted by the Texas A&M's Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center in 2008 suggested that this summertime thirst quencher may also increase libido by relaxing blood vessels and increasing blood flow to where we need it most. Further, a study is also looking into the possibility of extracting ethanol from rejected watermelons to use as biofuel.