‘………….By Joseph Mercola,
In the US, July is National Watermelon Month, so named not only because a cool, refreshing slice of watermelon represents the epitome of summer, but also because watermelon harvests peak this month.
Watermelon is now the most-consumed melon in the US (followed by cantaloupe and honeydew). This cousin to cucumbers, pumpkins, and squash is thought to have originated in Egypt close to 5,000 years ago, where it is depicted in hieroglyphics.
Today, upwards of 300 watermelon varieties are grown in the US and Mexico (although only about 50 are popular). You may think you know everything there is to know about this summertime fruit, but allow me to surprise you… watermelon is more than just delicious… it’s a super-healthy addition to your diet (in moderation, of course).
You just need to be careful when eating any melon, including watermelon to follow the advice of Wayne Pickering in my interview. Eat melon alone or leave it alone because it will make your stomach groan. So ideally, no food 30 minutes before or after eating melons.
6 Watermelon Facts That Might Surprise You
1. Watermelon Has More Lycopene Than Raw Tomatoes
Compared to a large fresh tomato, one cup of watermelon has 1.5 times the lycopene (6 milligrams (mg) in watermelon compared to 4 mg in a tomato). More on why lycopene is so important shortly…
2. Watermelon Juice May Relieve Muscle Soreness
If you have a juicer, try juicing about one-third of a fresh watermelon and drinking its juice prior to your next workout. This contains a little over one gram of l-citrulline, an amino acid that seems to protect against muscle pain.
One study found that men who drank natural unpasteurized watermelon juice prior to their workouts had reduced muscle soreness 24 hours later compared to those who drank a placebo.
You do need to be careful with drinking watermelon juice, though, as it contains a significant amount of fructose. It may be better to eat the entire fruit, or opt for these other tips to prevent muscle soreness.
3. Watermelon Is a Fruit and a Vegetable
Remember how watermelon is related to cucumbers, pumpkin, and squash? That’s because it’s part vegetable and part fruit (it’s a sweet, seed-producing plant, after all). The other clue that watermelon is both fruit and vegetable? The rind is entirely edible…
4. You Can Eat Watermelon Rind and Seeds
Most people throw away the watermelon rind, but try putting it in a blender with some lime for a healthy, refreshing treat. Not only does the rind contain plenty of health-promoting and blood-building chlorophyll, but the rind actually contains more of the amino acid citrulline than the pink flesh.
Citrulline is converted to arginine in your kidneys, and not only is this amino acid important for heart health and maintaining your immune system, but it has been researched to have potential therapeutic value in over 100 health conditions.
While many people prefer seedless watermelon varieties, black watermelon seeds are edible and actually quite healthy. They contain iron, zinc, protein, and fiber. (In case you were wondering, seedless watermelons aren’t genetically modified, as they’re the result of hybridization.)
5. It’s Mostly Water
This might not be surprising, but it’s still a fun fact; watermelon is more than 91 percent water. This means that eating watermelon with you on a hot summer day is a tasty way to help you stay hydrated and avoid dehydration (it’s not a substitute for drinking plenty of fresh water, however).
6. Some Watermelon Are Yellow
The Yellow Crimson watermelon has yellow flesh with a sweeter, honey flavor than the more popular pink-fleshed Crimson Sweet. It’s likely that yellow watermelon offers its own unique set of nutritional benefits, but most research to date has focused on the pink-fleshed varieties.
Lycopene: Watermelon’s Nutritional Claim to Fame
Watermelon is an excellent source of lycopene, with upwards of 6,500 micrograms (6.5 mg) in less than half a cup (the red-fleshed varieties will contain significantly more lycopene than yellow-fleshed watermelon).
Also noteworthy, the lycopene in watermelon appears to be quite stable, with little deterioration occurring even after it’s been cut and stored in the refrigerator for more than two days. In one study, it took about seven days of storage for the lycopene to deteriorate, and then it was only by about 6 percent to 11 percent.
So what makes lycopene so important? Lycopene’s antioxidant activity has long been suggested to be more powerful than that of other carotenoids, such as beta-carotene. In one study, after controlling for other stroke risk factors, such as older age and diabetes, they found that men with the highest blood levels of lycopene were 55 percent less likely to have a stroke than those with the lowest.
A 2014 meta-analysis also revealed that lycopene decreased stroke risk (including stroke occurrence or mortality) by more than 19 percent. In addition to lowering your risk of stroke, lycopene has been shown to have potential anti-cancer activity, likely due to its potent antioxidant properties.
A 2014 meta-analysis of 10 studies also showed that dietary lycopene may protect against the risk of ovarian cancer among postmenopausal women. There is also some evidence from animal studies that lycopene may help with cancer treatment as well.
One study found that lycopene treatment reduced the growth of brain tumors while another showed frequent lycopene intake suppressed breast tumor growth in mice.
Watermelon Extract May Significantly Reduce Blood Pressure
New research also highlights the role of watermelon nutrients on heart attack prevention, via a significant reduction in blood pressure. Obese study participants who received citrulline and arginine supplements derived from watermelon extract had significant improvements in blood pressure and cardiac stress, both while at rest and undergoing a stressful cold-water test. According to the researchers:
“Watermelon supplementation reduced aortic BP [blood pressure] and myocardial oxygen demand during CPT [cold pressor test] and the magnitude of the cold-induced increase in wave reflection in obese adults with hypertension. Watermelon may provide cardioprotection by attenuating cold-induced aortic hemodynamic responses.”
Remember, in your body the citrulline in watermelon is converted into L-arginine, which is a precursor to nitric oxide. Adequate nitric oxide is required to enable you blood vessels to stay relaxed and open for blood flow, which is one reason why it may help lower blood pressure.
Watermelon for Inflammation, Sexual Health, and More
L-arginine may also help with erectile dysfunction by helping to relax your blood vessels, including those supplying blood to your penis – and that’s why watermelon is sometimes referred to as “Nature’s Viagra.” In fact, citrulline supplementation has been found to improve erection hardness in men with mild erectile dysfunction.
What else is watermelon good for? It’s rich in anti-inflammatory substances. For instance, watermelon contains the anti-inflammatory antioxidant lycopene as well as cucurbitacin E, or tripterpenoid, which reduces the activity of the pain and inflammation-causing enzyme cyclooxygenase – the same enzyme blocked by COX-2 inhibitors, which include most NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen. While being very low in calories (about 46 calories in a cup), watermelon also contains an impressive variety of other important nutrients in which many Americans are lacking, including:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin A
How to Pick the Perfect Watermelon
Cutting into a watermelon and finding out it lacks flavor is disappointing. There’s a trick you can use to pick out a ripe watermelon, either from your farmer’s market or your own melon patch. Look for a pale, buttery-yellow spot (not white or green) on the bottom. This is where the watermelon sits on the ground ripening, and it’s one of the best indicators of ripeness you can use (even commercial watermelon pickers use this as a gauge). Other tricks for picking a ripe watermelon include:
- Should be heavy for its size
- Smooth rind with a dull top (the top is the side opposite the ground spot)
- The thump test (this is controversial, but ripe watermelon is said to have a hollow bass sound)
Store your watermelon in a cool area (50-60 degrees F) until it’s cut. Cut watermelon should be refrigerated (and be sure to wipe off your watermelon with a damp cloth prior to cutting it). Remember, try the rind blended with some lime juice rather than simply tossing it in the trash (choose an organic watermelon especially if you’ll be eating the rind). Finally, watermelon should be enjoyed in moderation due to its fructose content. One-sixteenth of a medium watermelon contains 11.3 grams of fructose (I recommend keeping your total fructose intake below 25 grams of fructose per day if you’re in good health, and below 15 grams a day if you’re overweight or have high blood pressure or diabetes).
Just what can we believe?
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines cover an array of nutritional issues including cholesterol, fat and sugars. They have broad effects on American menus, shaping school lunches, guiding advertisers, and serve as a touchstone for reams of diet advice.
Dennis Bier, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine said that as the editor of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, he has been trying to stay neutral in what he considers the “hot buttonest” of topics.
“When you are making recommendations for 300 million people, you have to be concerned about any data that suggests harm,” Bier said.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services said that the federal guidelines will consider comments from the public and the advice of its science panel. Known as the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, that panel in February generally reaffirmed the current salt warning.
No matter what the government comes up with on salt, however, Americans may be left confused.
The scientific question: How much is too much?
There is one area of consensus: Both sides agree that eating too much salt, especially for people with high blood pressure, can be dangerous.
The critical disagreement concerns how to define “too much.”
The blood-pressure reductions that come from abstaining from salt are relatively small on average, because individuals vary widely in their reactions. (REX)
Under the current dietary guidelines, too much is more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day – the amount of sodium in a teaspoon of salt. (For people over 50, and for African-Americans, the current recommended intake is even lower – 1,500 milligrams per day.)
If the U.S. salt warnings are correct, Americans are indeed endangering themselves on a massive scale. Americans typically go way over the limit, ingesting about 3,500 milligrams per day.
If the skeptics are correct, on the other hand, most Americans are fine. In their view, a typical healthy person can consume as much as 6,000 milligrams per day without significantly raising health risks. But consuming too little – somewhere below 3,000 milligrams – also raises health risks, they say.
To understand how divided scientists are on salt, consider that even authorities with the American Heart Association, one of the organizations promoting the current salt limits, don’t agree.
“The totality of the evidence strongly suggests that Americans should be lowering their sodium intake,” said Elliott Antman, the president of the American Heart Association. “Everyone agrees that current sodium intake is too high.”
This is the long-established view. It is based on the observation that, in some people, reducing salt consumption can lower blood pressure. Because high blood pressure is common and raises the risk of cardiovascular troubles, strict salt limits will benefit society, according to this view.
None of this is persuasive to people like Suzanne Oparil, a former president of the American Heart Association.
For one thing, the blood-pressure reductions that come from abstaining from salt are relatively small on average, because individuals vary widely in their reactions. (An average person who reduces his or her salt intake from median levels to the U.S. recommended levels may see a drop in blood pressure from 120/80 to 118/79, according to American Heart Association figures.)
“The current [salt] guidelines are based on almost nothing,” said Oparil, a distinguished professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “Some people really want to hang onto this belief system on salt. But they are ignoring the evidence.”
How could something as simple as salt stymie scientists for so long? The answer is that, despite the dietary claims that are made for all kinds of foods, actually substantiating how eating influences human health is notoriously difficult.
While the diets and lifestyles of test animals are easily controlled, humans and their whims introduce an array of murky variables, making people less-than-ideal subjects for what scientists call randomized controlled trials, their preferred form of research. This is especially true when these experiments go on for years, as diet research often does.
In the absence of such experiments, scientists are forced to consider lesser types of evidence. And in recent years, the debate appears to have tilted in the skeptics’ favor.
In 2013, the Institute of Medicine published a major review of the evidence connecting salt consumption and health outcomes. There was insufficient proof, the panel concluded, that heeding the U.S. recommended limit on sodium consumption improved health outcomes.
Then, this past August, the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a massive research effort known as the PURE study. It indicated that people who conform to the U.S. recommended limits actually have more heart trouble.
To explain their findings, these researchers pointed to studies suggesting that low sodium may stimulate the production of renin, a hormone that may have harmful effects on blood vessels.
While food studies are often financed by the industry, the PURE study in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Institute of Medicine study were funded by governmental and other sources.
Remote tribes, politics and science
Since their inception more than 30 years ago, the salt guidelines have drawn criticism.
Some of the earliest notions that Americans were eating too much salt arose from international comparisons.
It turned out that in some cultures, especially isolated ones, people consumed less salt and had lower blood pressure.
(Flickr / Dubravko Sorić )
In one influential 1973 paper, University of Michigan anthropologist Lillian Gleiberman collected statistics for 27 different populations. It showed the lowest blood pressures were among African Bushmen, the Chimbu of New Guinea, the Caraja of Brazil and Eskimos. Each consumed exceptionally low levels of salt.
Maybe, Gleiberman suggested, human bodies had not adapted to the higher salt available in modern societies.
“My major hypothesis was that people ate much less salt in prehistoric times,” Gleiberman, now retired, said by phone recently. “And that our bodies may not be prepared for the larger amounts of salt now available to us.”
But she said her paper was intended to inspire more research, not to serve as the basis of dietary guidelines. Those remote peoples, she said, are too different from modern populations to make sound comparisons.
“They have a simpler life,” Gleiberman said. “They don’t have the obesity, the diabetes and the other problems we have. We can’t look at a no-salt culture and say, ‘If we just do that, we’d be okay.’
“I have friends who won’t eat anything with salt,” she said. “I tell them they’re foolish.”
Nevertheless, when a Senate committee led by Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.) in 1977 set out to issue national dietary goals, the international comparisons played a key role.
There was not much else to go on. Scientists told the committee there was general agreement that very high salt consumption could be harmful. But were Americans eating too much? That was a matter of dispute.
“There is no doubt that excess salt, gross excesses, can produce high blood pressure in specific populations,” Robert I. Levy, director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute testified to the committee, according to a transcript. “The problem is demonstrating the efficacy of salt lowering in the American free-living population.”
In formulating their salt recommendations, the committee looked to the work of George R. Meneely and Harold D. Battarbee, researchers at Louisiana State University who made two arguments for restricting salt.
First, they said that our ancestors, “a primal herbivorous people,” probably consumed no more than 600 milligrams of salt per day – far less than today – and that our bodies have yet to adjust to the amount of salt available in modern society.
Second, they noted that, in some people, lowering salt consumption lowered blood pressure. Since about 20 percent of American adults at the time had high blood pressure, reducing salt consumption would “result in the amelioration of much suffering.”
But even Meneely and Battarbee noted the complexity of the issue, noting that it was difficult to to say just how poisonous salt is, or, as they put it, to “document its toxicity.”
Despite the uncertainty, the committee advised Americans in “Dietary Goals” to reduce their salt consumption to a very, very low level – 1,200 milligrams of sodium per day. That is even lower than today’s most restrictive recommendations.
Wherever that figure came from, it didn’t last long. By November, the committee issued another set of guidelines. They raised the daily amount to 2,000 milligrams. But that didn’t last long, either. Three years later, the federal bureaucracy – not the Senate committee – issued its dietary advice. It was the first version of the “Dietary Guidelines.” It advised people to lower their salt consumption, but it did not specify an upper limit.
Intersalt, more doubts and the revival of a salt limit
So the question lingered. The Dietary Guidelines said Americans were eating too much salt. But how much was “too much”?
In 1984, a major worldwide study known as Intersalt was launched, with scientists testing more than 10,000 people from 52 different populations. The study was funded by the U.S. government, a British charitable trust and other world groups.
Yet Intersalt, too, failed to settle the argument. When the results were published in 1988, many of the findings undercut the salt orthodoxy. In the comparisons of populations, there was little proof that societies that consumed more salt suffered from higher blood pressure. For example, while South Koreans consumed vast amounts of salt and had low blood pressures, the opposite was true for a Belgian population.
One other item, however, did favor salt restrictions: In places where more salt was consumed, blood pressures rose more with age.
Both sides declared victory. Then, despite the muddle, Intersalt became the basis for strict U.S. salt guidelines, with the 1995 Dietary Guidelines recommending holding to just about today’s limit of 2,300 milligrams per day.
(It takes some tracing back to see that Intersalt is the basis of those guidelines, but the academic references wind back as follows: The 1995 Dietary Guidelines cited an FDA report, which cited a report called “Diet and Health” from the National Academy of Sciences, which in turn cited the Intersalt findings. At each step, scientists had declared their uncertainty.)
The strict salt limit had become a fixture of U.S dietary advice.
The 2015 debate
Many experts expect that the 2015 Dietary Guidelines will stick to the existing 2,300 milligram limit.
Already, the 15-member advisory panel in February recommended keeping the limit, though it withdrew support for the even stricter 1,500 milligram limit for African Americans and people over 50. It further called for measures to remove salt from American foods.
Cheryl Anderson, a nutrition expert at the University of California at San Diego who led the advisory panel’s sodium working group, said the government should continue to offer salt guidelines despite some of the recent findings that have called them into question.
One of the major critical studies was the PURE investigation, which incuded more than 100,000 people and was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Anderson said it was “respectable” and “an important contribution.”
But she said such studies may be misleading because researchers take only a limited number of urine samples. And, she said, that type of research, known as observational studies, may suffer from a problem known as “reverse causality.” That is, while the data suggested that low-salt diets may have caused cardiovascular problems, maybe it was just the reverse – that preexisting cardiovascular problems had led people to eat low-salt diets.
The authors of the PURE study took steps to minimize such bias, but at the end, Anderson said, the weight of the evidence favored the old salt warning.
“We can’t take any one study in isolation,” Anderson said. “We placed the new ones in the context of the body of literature on sodium – and we put the strongest recommendations forward.”
Copyright: Washington Post……….’
Is this true or not?
Who knows, do you?
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