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Study Finds Watermelon Lowers Blood Pressure

Newswise — No matter how you slice it, watermelon has a lot going for it –– sweet, low calorie, high fiber, nutrient rich –– and now, there’s more. Evidence from a pilot study led by food scientists at The Florida State University suggests that watermelon can be an effective natural weapon against prehypertension, a precursor to cardiovascular disease.

It is the first investigation of its kind in humans. FSU Assistant Professor Arturo Figueroa and Professor Bahram H. Arjmandi found that when six grams of the amino acids L-citrulline/L-arginine from watermelon extract were administered daily for six weeks, there was improved arterial function and consequently lowered aortic blood pressure in all nine of their prehypertensive subjects (four men and five postmenopausal women, ages 51-57).

“We are the first to document improved aortic hemodynamics in prehypertensive but otherwise healthy middle-aged men and women receiving therapeutic doses of watermelon,” Figueroa said. “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.

“Given the encouraging evidence generated by this preliminary study, we hope to continue the research and include a much larger group of participants in the next round,” he said.

Why watermelon?

“Watermelon 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,” Figueroa said.

Once in the body, the L-citrulline is converted into L-arginine. Simply consuming L-arginine as a dietary supplement isn’t an option for many hypertensive adults, said Figueroa, because it can cause nausea, gastrointestinal tract discomfort, and diarrhea.

In contrast, watermelon is well tolerated. Participants in the Florida State pilot study reported no adverse effects. And, in addition to the vascular benefits of citrulline, watermelon provides abundant vitamin A, B6, C, fiber, potassium and lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Watermelon may even help to reduce serum glucose levels, according to Arjmandi.

“Cardiovascular disease (CVD) continues to be the leading cause of death in the United States,” Arjmandi said. “Generally, Americans have been more concerned about their blood cholesterol levels and dietary cholesterol intakes rather than their overall cardiovascular health risk factors leading to CVD, such as obesity and vascular dysfunction characterized by arterial stiffening and thickness –– issues that functional foods such as watermelon can help to mitigate.

“By functional foods,” said Arjmandi, “we mean those foods scientifically shown to have health-promoting or disease-preventing properties, above and beyond the other intrinsically healthy nutrients they also supply.”

Figueroa said oral L-citrulline supplementation might allow a reduced dosage of antihypertensive drugs necessary to control blood pressure.

“Even better, it may prevent the progression from prehypertension to hypertension in the first place,” he said.

While watermelon or watermelon extract is the best natural source for L-citrulline, it is also available in the synthetic form in pills, which Figueroa used in a previous study of younger, male subjects. That investigation showed that four weeks of L-citrulline slowed or weakened the increase in aortic blood pressure in response to cold exposure. It was an important finding, said Figueroa, since there is a greater occurrence of myocardial infarction associated with hypertension during the cold winter months.

“Individuals with increased blood pressure and arterial stiffness –– especially those who are older and those with chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes –– would benefit from L-citrulline in either the synthetic or natural (watermelon) form,” Figueroa said. “The optimal dose appears to be four to six grams a day.”

Approximately 60 percent of U.S. adults are prehypertensive or hypertensive. Prehypertension is characterized by systolic blood pressure readings of 120-139 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) over diastolic pressure of 80-89 mm Hg. “Systolic” refers to the blood pressure when the heart is contracting. “Diastolic” reflects the blood pressure when the heart is in a period of relaxation and expansion.

Findings from Figueroa’s latest pilot study at Florida State are described in the American Journal of Hypertension. A copy of the paper (“Effects of Watermelon Supplementation on Aortic Blood Pressure and Wave Reflection in Individuals With Prehypertension: A Pilot Study”) can be accessed online.

The paper’s lead author, Figueroa holds a medical degree, a doctoral degree in physiological sciences, and a master’s degree in sports medicine. He has been a faculty member in the Florida State University Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences since 2004. Figueroa’s coauthor and colleague Arjmandi serves as chairman of the department, which is a part of Florida State’s interdisciplinary College of Human Sciences. Arjmandi also is the author or coauthor of an extensive body of published research on the health benefits of prunes and other functional foods.

Coauthors of the Figueroa-Arjmandi paper in the American Journal of Hypertension are Marcos A. Sanchez-Gonzalez, a Florida State doctoral student in exercise physiology, and Penelope Perkins-Veazie, a horticulture professor at North Carolina State University.

CONTACTS: Arturo Figueroa, (850) 644-8089; afiguero@fsu.edu
Bahram H. Arjmandi, (850) 645-1517; barjmandi@fsu.edu




Released: 10/13/2010 7:00 PM EDT
Source: Florida State University






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Phytonutrients and Bone Health

Along with vitamins, minerals and fiber, fruits and vegetables contain plant-based compounds known as phytonutrients that research suggests provide a range of potential health benefits, including bone health. "The research highlights the importance of the variety of the fruits and vegetables. Everyone can benefit by eating fruits and vegetables that span a broad color spectrum," said Randolph.

<>Here are some foods that provide phytonutrients for each color category.

Green
  • Phytonutrients: EGCG, lutein/zeaxanthin, isoflavones.
  • Key Food Sources: tea, spinach, soybeans

Red

  • Phytonutrients: lycopene.
  • Key Food Sources: tomatoes and tomato products

White

  • Phytonutrients: quercetin.
  • Key Food Sources: onions

Yellow/Orange

  • Phytonutrients: beta-carotene, hesperitin, beta-cryptoxanthin.
  • Key Food Sources: carrots, oranges and orange juice

"Bone is an active tissue in the body, and fortunately just like other muscles and tissues, there are ways adults of all ages can protect and keep their bones healthy," says Amy Hendel, Nutrilite's Phytonutrient Coach.

To help promote better bone health, Hendel, a registered physician assistant and health/wellness expert, offers some tips for people at any age:



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Complete Idiot's Guide to Total Nutrition, Fourth Edition
Good health starts with good nutrition.
With all the constant debate over diet fads, proper nutrition is slipping through the cracks. This revised and updated guide places the emphasis on good health by informing families of everything they need to know to get the best nutrition—from daily vitamin and mineral intake and facts about fats and cholesterol, to advice on shopping for healthy foods, and much more.  

-Includes updates to the USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid
-New numbers for blood pressure and sodium intake
-A section on helping overweight children
-New fiber recommendations for kids
-A new section on macrobiotics and raw diets


Back to Nutrition Page

Maintaining Bone Health

(Family Features) - You may not know this, but your bones play an important role in your overall health. They not only give the body a frame that lets you move, bones store minerals that are vital to the function of other life-sustaining systems.

According to the Office of the Surgeon General, an estimated 10 million Americans over age 50 have osteoporosis or "thinning of the bones," while another 34 million are at risk. The National Osteoporosis Foundation says that approximately one in two women, and up to one in four men over age 50 will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture in their remaining lifetime.

Bone health needs to be a priority for people of all ages. One simple way to improve bone health is to make sure your diet includes bone-building nutrients like calcium, Vitamin D and phytonutrients.

According to a newly released report by the Nutrilite Health Institute, "America's Phytonutrient Report: Bone Health by Color," Americans who fall short in meeting their daily fruit and vegetable intakes are also likely missing out on other nutrients that contribute to bone health.

"It's like a double impact - if you fail to eat enough fruits and vegetables, you are also likely not getting enough bone-building nutrients like calcium and vitamin D from all food sources in your total diet either," said Keith Randolph, Ph.D., Technology Strategist for Nutrilite.


  • Eat a Calcium and Vitamin D-Rich Breakfast. Start your day with breakfast foods like lower-fat dairy, soy milk, yogurt and calcium-fortified orange juice and cereals for bone-healthy nutrients.
      
  • Add Color to Meals. Toss some phytonutrient-rich foods into meals. If you like soup, consider adding kale, broccoli or turnip greens, which also provide bone-building calcium.
     
  • Exercise. Keep in mind that diet alone will not keep your bones dense and strong.  A weight-bearing exercise program that includes walking, jogging or running, and use of free weights, is important for bone health.
     
  • Meet the Daily Phytonutrient Goal. A good goal for most individuals is to consume 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. For those having trouble getting enough fruits and vegetables into their diet, natural, plant-based supplements which contain phytonutrients can help close the phytonutrient gap.

For more information about Nutrilite Nutritional Supplements and to get more practical tips, visit www.nutrilite.com/color.

SOURCE:  Nutrilite


Vitamin A
Vitamin A aids in the growth of new tissue and cells. It helps keep your skin healthy, along with your lungs, bones, teeth, hair and kidneys. Vitamin  A is also called retinol. Good sources of vitamin A are: carrots, dairy products, tomatoes, peaches, liver, cantaloupe and green and yellow vegetables. You may also take a cod liver oil supplement, but I prefer something much more tasty!


  Signs of a calcium deficiency:
People who drink a lot of soft drinks are especially prone to calcium loss due  to the phosphorus content in the soda. You may find that by giving up your favorite Coke or Pepsi the symptoms listed below will disappear.  Muscle cramps, numbness in hands, face and arms, weakness, dizziness, flu like symptoms, extreme tiredness, nervousness, depression, very low blood pressure. The symptoms will worsen over time if not treated.  If you have any of these symptoms, ask to have a blood test done for calcium.
Especially recommended for women over age 35
.

Calcium
Most people already know that calcium is necessary for forming strong bones and teeth. But did you also know  that calcium plays many more parts in keeping you alive?  It helps the heart keep a regular beat and prevents muscle cramps . Without calcium, your blood would not clot.   Calcium may help you in preventing colon cancer.  It also helps in preventing osteoporosis.








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