By Bob Condor

Watermelon, of all things, is good for the blood vessels. It contains substances that relax and open up those blood vessels, which is a major benefit for the body’s heart and circulatory system. In that watermelon slice, no small thing to men who deal with the condition, is potential to reverse erectile dysfunction or ED.

Earlier studies have showed that lycopene concentrations in red-flesh watermelon rival or even outdistance those of tomatoes (see yesterday’s DHB entry). Lycopene has been documented as a protector and fighter against prostate cancer.

What researchers at Texas A&M found in a recent study is that watermelon, despite being 92 percent water, packs a wallop in the other 8 percent. Along with lycopene, watermelon contains other phytonutrients that boost the body. One recent discovered phytonutrient in watermelon is citrulline.

When citrulline is consumed, it converts to the amino acid arginine in the body through the work of selected enzymes. Arginine has long been linked to improved heart and immune function, plus it shows promise as a way to offset Type 2 diabetes.

As for ED, arginine increases the blood supply’s level of nitric oxide that in turn relaxes the blood vessels. Bhimu Patil, director of the fruits and vegetables “improvement” lab at Texas A&M, says the effect is similar to Viagra (used for E

D treatments) but not as “organ-specific.” He says regular watermelon consumption might even prevent ED. Another benefit of this nitric oxide reaction is a natural lowering of blood pressure.

Some advice on eating watermelon with ED or any health benefit in mind: Don’t refrigerate your watermelon until it is cut. The refrigeration diminishes lycopene content. Plus, the highest concentration of citrulline is in the watermelon rind. You might consider using a professional-quality juicer to use the entire fruit. Patil and his lab colleagues are working to develop watermelons with more citrulline in the red flesh portion of the fruit.

For now, the summertime treat couldn’t taste better.

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“Bob Condor is the Daily Health Blogger for Barton Publishing . He is also the Living Well columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer . He covers natural health and quality of life issues and writes regularly for national magazines, including Life, Esquire, Parade, Self, and Outside. He is a former syndicated health columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of six books, including “The Good Mood Diet” and “Your Prostate Cancer Survivors' Guide.” He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two 11-year-old kids.