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Bringing blood pressure down naturally with watermelon

Hypertension or high blood pressure, as it is more commonly known, is regarded as a silent killer. It is a disease of the modern age. The fast pace of life and the mental and physical pressures caused by the increasingly industrialised and metropolitan environments have a role to play in the rise in blood pressure. The good news is that these risk factors can be reversed, in many cases, through physical activity and a healthy diet. Recent studies have revealed an important link between dietary calcium and potassium and hypertension. Researchers have found that people who take potassium and calcium rich diets have a low incidence of hypertension even if they do not control their salt-intake. The two essential nutrients help the body to get rid of excess sodium and are involved in important functions, which control the working of the vascular system. Potassium is found in abundance in fruits and vegetables and calcium in dairy products.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, reducing sodium intake has a limited effect on hypertensive people under the age of 45 and a minimal effect on people with normal blood pressure. Meanwhile, a recent clinical trial in the US found that a moderate sodium intake combined with a higher intake of potassium, calcium and magnesium (by eating more fruit, vegetables and low-fat dairy products), offers more significant benefits for blood pressure than sodium restriction alone. Potassium works in conjunction with sodium to regulate blood pressure. Good sources of potassium include many fruits, such as cantaloupe, bananas, kiwi-fruit, oranges, watermelon and dried apricots. Choose vegetables like potatoes, spinach, and zucchini. Magnesium, the anti-stress mineral, also works closely with sodium and potassium. Good sources of magnesium include: figs, lemons, grapefruit, yellow corn, whole grains, almonds, nuts, seeds, dark green vegetables and apples. Calcium and magnesium work together for good cardiovascular health. Good sources of calcium include: low-fat dairy products, soybeans, sardines, salmon, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, dried beans, and dark leafy green vegetables.

Other foods that may reduce blood pressure include omega-3 fats (found in oily fish, flaxseeds), garlic, and soluble fiber (found in apples, oat bran, dried beans and vegetables). Watermelon juice has also been named a novel source of the essential amino acid, arginine that is known to help to lower blood pressure as well, according to a new research. Arginine is a precursor for nitric oxide, which has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting and protect against myocardial infarction and strokes. Researchers from the ARS, Texas A&M University, the University of Nevada, and Oklahoma State University, have reported that blood arginine levels increased by 22 per cent after three weeks of drinking watermelon juice with every meal. The lead author of the study, Julie Collins in the journal Nutrition, said the amino acid from watermelon could be useful for people with elevated ammonia levels, arginine transport problems, or enhanced intestinal arginine breakdown, as is found in people with stress and infection.

The researchers recruited healthy volunteers (between 12 and 23 per intervention group) and assigned them to receive 0, 780, or 1560 grams of watermelon juice per day,providing a daily L-citrulline dose of 0, 1 or 2 grams. The interventions lasted three weeks and subjects were later crossed over after washout periods of two to four weeks. After the three weeks of intervention, Collins and co-workers report that fasting blood levels of arginine had increased by 11 and 22 per cent for the low- and high-dose juice interventions, respectively. Levels of ornithine, a product of arginine catabolism, also increased in the high-dose watermelon juice group by 18 per cent after three weeks. “Because the watermelon juice intervention was not continued longer than three weeks, it is not known if arginine levels plateau at three weeks or if there would have been further increases with prolonged administration,” stated the researchers. Previous studies with animals have reported that citrulline administration may be detrimental to levels of other amino acids, but no such results were observed in this human study, they said.

“In our study, we found plasma concentrations of all other amino acids were not affected by the low or high levels of watermelon juice consumption,” the researchers wrote. “These results indicate that the doses of citrulline intake from watermelon juice have no deleterious effects on whole-body amino acid balance in humans.” Based on there result, they concluded that since “citrulline from watermelon was effectively converted into arginine and offers a potential role for exploring the dietary effects of watermelon in regulating whole-body metabolism of energy substrates”, it can improve cardiovascular and immunologic functions, and prevent the ageing-associated increase in tissue oxidative stress. Watermelon, naturopathy for long had said is a valuable safeguard against high blood pressure. A substance extracted from watermelon seeds is said to have a definite action in dilating the blood vessels, which results in lowering the blood pressure. The seeds, dried and roasted, should be taken in liberal quantities.

Its powerful antioxidant content at the end of the day would have effectively prevented some forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease. According to research conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, men who consumed a lycopene-rich diet were half as likely to suffer a heart attack as those who had little or no lycopene in their diets.


Publication date: 6/15/2007


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