Did you know that watermelon is not only a delicious summer fruit, but it also has numerous health benefits? Specifically, watermelon has been shown to improve cardiometabolic health, which includes conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.
Cardiometabolic diseases are a growing concern worldwide, with millions of people affected by these conditions. Research has shown that lifestyle factors, such as diet, can play a significant role in preventing and managing these diseases.
One food that has gained attention for its potential health benefits is watermelon. This juicy fruit is not only low in calories and high in nutrients, but it also contains compounds that may help improve cardiometabolic health. In this article, we will explore the specific benefits of watermelon for cardiometabolic health and how you can incorporate it into your diet.
What are the benefits of watermelon for your health?
A mere 6.8% of adults in the United States have optimal cardiometabolic health. Meanwhile, a staggering 47 million individuals suffer from cardiometabolic disorders.
Watermelon is rich in L-citrulline and L-arginine, both of which serve as nitric oxide (NO) precursors. NO is responsible for relaxing blood vessels and widening arteries.
Drinking watermelon juice helps prevent reductions in heart rate variability (HRV) after consuming high amounts of sugar. Low HRV is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality.
Those who consume watermelon have better quality diets and nutrient intake compared to those who don’t.
Overweight or obese adults who eat watermelon experience greater satiety, including lower hunger, food consumption, and desire to eat, as well as greater fullness, compared to consuming low-fat cookies.
A small percentage of U.S. adults have optimal cardiometabolic health, while a significant amount have disorders that increase their risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Risk factors for these disorders include high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, elevated fasting blood sugar, dyslipidemia, and elevated triglycerides.
Lowering risks for cardiometabolic health is beneficial, and lifestyle factors such as maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and eating right can help. Watermelon is a good dietary choice due to its nutrient mix that supports cardiometabolic health.
Health effects of watermelon seeds
Dr. SHIVA Ayyadurai, an MIT PhD, presents results from CytoSolve® Molecular Systems Biology Analysis on the health benefits of watermelon seeds. These seeds have been studied for over 80 years and have had 329 research articles and 3 clinical trials.
Watermelon seeds contain 26 key molecules and offer benefits such as improved cardiovascular health, skin health, bone health, and hair health. Specifically, arginine and citrulline from watermelon seeds promote nitric oxide production, leading to vasorelaxation and lower hypertension.
Watermelon seed compounds also upregulate antioxidant enzymes and neutralize ROS, mitigating diabetes by downregulating endothelial dysfunction caused by oxidative stress.
Additionally, watermelon seed compounds prevent atherosclerosis by downregulating oxidative stress that causes plaque formation and hardening of arteries.
However, watermelon seeds may not be suitable for everyone.
Watermelon juice has been found to have a positive impact on heart rate variability.
Heart rate variability, or HRV, is a measure of the time variations between heartbeats and is controlled by the autonomic nervous system. It is considered a proxy of autonomic activity and is associated with executive functions and emotional regulation.
HRV can be used to evaluate autonomic dysfunction, which is becoming increasingly recognized as a factor in the development of cardiometabolic disease, according to Louisiana State University researchers in Baton Rouge. A low HRV is connected with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality, as well as the accumulation of visceral fat, hyperglycemia, endothelial dysfunction, and increased inflammation.
L-citrulline and L-arginine can be found in watermelon. They are precursors to nitric oxide (NO), which helps relax blood vessels and widen arteries. When consumed orally, l-citrulline turns into l-arginine. These compounds are believed to have a positive effect on heart health, in part due to their impact on HRV. Louisiana State University researchers have found promising results.
L-arginine is an amino acid that acts as a substrate for NO synthase, which facilitates the formation of NO. In healthy individuals, elevating the plasma levels of L-arginine has demonstrated improved vagal control of heart rate. Other therapies that promote NO, like nitrates and beetroot juice, have shown potential in enhancing HRV.
A study found that drinking watermelon juice may help prevent reductions in HRV.
The team conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to investigate the effects of daily watermelon juice consumption for two weeks on HRVs during an oral glucose challenge. It’s believed that reduced HRVs may be related to the loss of NO bioavailability, which can be increased through watermelon juice consumption. The OGC has previously been shown to have a negative effect on HRVs.
The study consisted of 18 participants who consumed either 500 ml of watermelon juice or a placebo daily. The results showed that watermelon juice helped reduce the effects of OCG on HRV. This information is based on the study’s findings.
Through a rigorous study design, it has been demonstrated that L-citrulline and L-arginine, which are naturally rich sources of amino acids, effectively preserve HRV during hyperglycemic episodes.
The findings are a continuation of previous research indicating that WMJ supplementation safeguards vascular function during hyperglycemia. A potential connection between NO bioavailability and these physiological systems exists, but further investigation is necessary to establish a mechanistic understanding of this correlation.
Consuming watermelon is associated with a more nutritious diet.
A study published in Nutrients utilized data from NHANES to investigate the correlation between watermelon consumption, nutrient intake, and diet quality. Prior research has connected watermelon extracts or supplements to various health advantages, such as reduced pulse pressure and lower systolic and diastolic blood pressures.
The study examined the effects of consuming fresh, raw watermelon in smaller quantities, as previous studies had used extracts equivalent to over 2 pounds of watermelon per day. The study included both children and adults, and 98% of participants consumed raw watermelon.
The study showed that children had an average daily intake of 125 grams, or 5/8 cup, of watermelon, while adults consumed 161 grams, or about 2/3 cup. People who ate watermelon had better quality diets and higher nutrient intake compared to those who didn’t. These findings were reported by the study.
The study found that both children and adult watermelon consumers had higher intake of dietary fiber, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin A, along with lower intake of added sugars. Additionally, they had higher intake of lycopene and other carotenoids, suggesting that watermelon can improve nutrient intake and diet quality in Americans of all ages.
Compared to other foods like oatmeal, mango, and nuts, watermelon consumption showed the highest positive percent changes. Studies found that eating watermelon resulted in a 3% increase in total vegetable intake among children, and a 10% increase in adults. Protein intake increased by 5% in children who consumed watermelon, and fatty acid ratio increased by 9%.
Watermelon is considered a nutrient-dense food and consuming it on a daily basis can improve one’s nutrition. According to Nutrients researchers, studies have shown a decrease in triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, body weight, BMI, and a lowered risk of certain cancers when consuming raw watermelon. Additionally, it has been found to have higher antioxidant capacity.
The researchers stated that individuals who consume watermelon may have a reduced desire for foods with added sugars due the fruit’s natural sweetness. Additionally, a 100-gram serving of watermelon (equivalent of 1/2 cup) contains several essential nutrients.
112 milligrams (mg) potassium
8.1 mg vitamin C
28 µg vitamin A
10 mg magnesium
3 µg folate
The food contains 0.4 grams of dietary fiber.
Watermelon contains bioavailable antioxidants.
Watermelon is known for being a good source of antioxidants, such as lycopene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
According to the researchers, watermelon contains significantly higher amounts of beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin compared to other commonly consumed fruits. Increasing watermelon consumption could potentially improve nutrient intake and provide antioxidant benefits.
Research suggests that diets containing beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene may provide increased protection against LDL cholesterol oxidation, a contributor to atherosclerosis. Higher levels of plasma carotenoids have also been linked to decreased DNA damage.
The severity of congestive heart failure has been found to have an inverse correlation with plasma levels of antioxidants including lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin E, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, and alpha- and beta-carotene.
Lycopene, a carotenoid antioxidant found in watermelon, has been linked to a reduced risk of stroke. A study conducted on middle-aged men over a 12-year period found that those with higher levels of lycopene in their blood had a 55% lower risk of stroke compared to those with lower levels.
A study published in Cardiovascular Drug Reviews:23 suggests that L-citrulline may have therapeutic benefits for cardiovascular disease.
The efficacy of supplemental administration of L-arginine in improving NO production and cardiovascular function has been observed in cardiovascular diseases linked with endothelial dysfunction, including atherosclerosis, diabetic vascular disease, hypertension, heart failure, and ischemia-reperfusion injury. However, the advantageous effects are not sustained with chronic therapy.
The metabolism of L-arginine in the intestine and liver makes oral delivery ineffective. However, L-citrulline is not metabolized in these organs. When L-citrulline enters the kidney, vascular endothelium, and other tissues, it can easily be converted to L-arginine, leading to increased levels of L-arginine and improved NO production.
In a 2022 meta-analysis, watermelon consumption was found to improve cardiometabolic risk factors, with particular emphasis on the intake of l-citrulline.
In conclusion, the consumption of watermelon and longer-term l-citrulline supplementation may have a positive impact on vascular function, indicating a possible mechanism for the improvement of cardiovascular health outcomes in adults.
Additional benefits of consuming watermelon.
A study was conducted on the effects of consuming whole blenderized watermelon, including the flesh and rind blended together. Overweight or obese children aged 10 to 17 were given either 1 cup of blenderized watermelon or a sugar-sweetened beverage daily for eight weeks.
A study found that consuming watermelon led to a decrease in body mass index, body fat percentage, and HbA1c levels. The study suggests that watermelon could be a healthier snack option for children, potentially improving obesity-related risk factors.
Watermelon has a high water content of 91% by weight, making it a hydrating fruit. It also promotes satiety, which can aid in weight management. A study involving 33 overweight or obese adults showed that those who consumed 2 cups of watermelon daily for four weeks had the same benefits as those who consumed low-fat cookies.
Watermelon consumption resulted in greater satiety, lower hunger, food consumption, and desire to eat, as well as greater fullness. Compared to cookie consumption, eating watermelon also led to significant decreases in body weight, BMI, systolic blood pressure, and waist-to- hip ratio, while cookies led to increased blood pressure and body fat. The watermelon group also showed lower oxidative stress and increased antioxidant capacity. These findings were noted by the researchers.
The study indicates that regular consumption of watermelon can lead to a decrease in body weight, BMI, and blood pressure, as well as improvements in certain factors related to overweight and obesity.
A comprehensive review of studies conducted between 2000 and 2020 on watermelon and l-citrulline’s impact on cardiometabolic health found further evidence supporting watermelon’s potential for reducing blood pressure and aiding in weight control. Additionally, emerging research suggests that watermelon may also have positive effects on brain and gut health by increasing NO bioavailability in all tissues.
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