Healthy eating can play an essential role in warding off high blood pressure, but finding the right type of food to eat can be tricky. A study conducted at Florida State University has revealed that adding a couple of watermelon slices to a daily diet can help control hypertension in people struggling with obesity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every three adults in the United States suffers from high blood pressure. Out of the 67 million Americans dealing with hypertension, less than half have it under control. People who leave their hypertensive condition unchecked significantly increase their risk for heart disease and stroke.

"The pressure on the aorta and on the heart decreased after consuming watermelon extract," lead researcher Professor Arturo Figueroa said in a statement. "That means less overload to the heart, so the heart is going to work easily during a stressful situation such as cold exposure."

Figueroa and his colleagues from FSU recruited 13 adults struggling with obesity who were also affected by high blood pressure. Over the course of 12 weeks, each participant was asked to dip one hand in 39-degree water while their blood pressure and vitals were gauged. Prior research shows that the human body can go into cardiac arrest when exposed to cold temperature due to rapid increase in blood pressure. During this rise in blood pressure, the heart is forced to work harder to pump blood for the aorta, which in turn leads to less blood flow within the heart.

In a second part of the experiment, each participant was randomly selected into two groups where they were either given four grams of the amino acid L-citrulline and two grams of L-arginine per day from watermelon extract or a placebo for six weeks. At the end of the six weeks, the groups switched. Participants in both groups were asked to stick with their normal diet and refrain from taking any medication to treat high blood pressure.

While taking the four grams of the amino acid L-citrulline and two grams of L-arginine per day from watermelon extract, participants displayed a remarkable improvement in aortic blood pressure as well as vascular markers. Blood pressure and cardiac stress were also improved while the body was at rest and when it was exposed to cold water temperatures.

"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 in a separate statement.

Source: Wong A, Kalfon R, Figueroa A. Effects of Watermelon Supplementation on Aortic Hemodynamic Responses to the Cold Pressor Test in Obese Hypertensive Adults. American Journal of Hypertension. 2014.