July 5, 2008

Melon Also Relaxes Blood Vessels

By Chidanand Rajghatta

WASHINGTON: It seems that watermelons don't just quench thirst, but also increase libido, says a new study.

The fruit has some nourishing ingredients that affect the libido. These include lycopene - which is typically found in tomatoes; beta carotene; and the rising star among its phyto-nutrients - citrulline, whose beneficial functions include the ability to relax blood vessels, much like Viagra and other impotence drugs do.

Scientists say when watermelon is consumed; citrulline is converted to arginine through certain enzymes. Arginine is an amino acid that helps the heart and circulation system and maintains a good immune system.

"The citrulline-arginine relationship helps heart health, the immune system and may prove to be very helpful for those who suffer from obesity and type-2 diabetes," says Dr Bhimangouda Patil, director of Texas A&M's Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center in College Station. "Arginine boosts nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels - the same basic effect that Viagra has - to treat erectile dysfunction and maybe even prevent it."

Patil cautions, though, that watermelon may not be as organ- specific as Viagra, "but it's a great way to relax blood vessels without any drug side effects."

There's also a small catch. Much of the citrulline is found in watermelon's rind (the white outer part) although scientists think it can be pushed into the fleshy red part with careful breeding. In some cultures, the rind is eaten as a vegetable.

As an added bonus, the Texas studies have also shown that deep red varieties of watermelon have displaced tomato as the lycopene king. Almost 92% of watermelon is water, but the remaining 8% is packed with lycopene, an anti-oxidant that protects the human heart, and prostate, prevents cancer and enhances skin health.

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