A juicy slice of heart protection

Despite its decadently sweet flavor, watermelon is actually very low in sugar. But that’s just one of the reasons it’s a staple in my fridge each summer. It also has some significant health benefits.

For instance, watermelon is high in a natural compound called citrulline, which helps the body produce nitric oxide. And nitric oxide helps blood vessels relax, which eases blood flow throughout the body.

And now, there’s evidence that watermelon extract is good for blood pressure.

The study appears in the prestigious American Journal of Hypertension.

Researchers from Florida State University tested the effects of watermelon extract on 14 adults, all around age 58, who either had pre-hypertension or stage 1 hypertension (aka, high blood pressure). The volunteers were randomly assigned to take either watermelon extract or placebo. Then, after a two-week “washout” period, they switched.

After taking 6 grams of watermelon extract for six weeks, volunteers had significant decreases in arm blood pressure–15.1 points (systolic) and 7.6 points (diastolic). Ankle measurements showed equally dramatic drops–11.5 points (systolic) and 7.6 (diastolic).

Granted, to get 6 grams of extract, you’d have to eat a LOT of watermelon. But, unlike the subjects in this study, I’m guessing watermelon isn’t the only way you’re supporting your blood pressure.

So there’s no need to go to extremes. If watermelon helps your blood pressure even a little bit, I say enjoy it! This is prime melon season, so pick one up at your local farmer’s market this weekend.

“Watermelon Extract Supplementation Reduces Ankle Blood Pressure and Carotid Augmentation Index in Obese Adults With Prehypertension or Hypertension,” American Journal of Hypertension 2012; 25: 640-643