People with high blood pressure may want to perk up. New research out of Florida State University found watermelon to significantly cut blood pressure in overweight people. The effects occurred during times of rest, as well as while under stress.
The study was prompted by the fact that more people die of heart attacks when exposed to cold weather. The stress of cold temperatures leads to narrowed blood vessels in the heart, which increases blood pressure. As a result, the heart works harder. According to researchers, people with obesity and high blood pressure are at an increased risk for stroke and heart attack when exposed to cold temperatures.
The Florida State study included 13 middle-aged men and women with obesity and high blood pressure. To simulate the effects of cold weather conditions, participants placed their hands in 39-degree water while researchers measured their blood pressure. The subjects were then divided into two groups. One group was given a mix of two amino acids (L-citrulline and L-arginine) derived from watermelon extract. The other group received a placebo. After six weeks, the groups switched.
During the 12-week study, participants did not take any additional blood pressure medication. They were also asked not to make any significant lifestyle changes.
“L-arginine and L-citrulline relax the smooth muscle of the arteries and lower blood pressure,” said Dr. Arturo Figueroa, Florida State associate professor. “We confirmed that watermelon, which has a high amount of L-citrulline, decreases blood pressure both at rest and when stressed by cold exposure in older adults with hypertension.”
Figueroa is no stranger to the positive effects of watermelon. One of his previous studies examined the ways in which the fruit impacts arterial function in post-menopausal women. According to Figueroa, he hopes to conduct future studies looking at the relationship between watermelon and heart function in people with Type 2 diabetes.
By Marianne Hayes