Watermelon’s Effect On Inflammation

  • Suzanna Nock BSc (Hons) Immunology and Pharmacology, University of Strathclyde, Scotland

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Overview

Watermelon is a well-known and popular summer fruit that has profound health benefits. Naturally grown in Africa, this fruit is packed with essential nutrients for a well-functioning body including vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin B6, its high water and fibre content will keep you hydrated during hot summer months whilst also keeping your digestion running well. All of these nutrients will work together to improve your health and well-being. More specifically watermelon works to decrease your cancer risk and improve your skin and heart health whilst also reducing excess inflammation. With only a fraction of people consuming the recommended daily amount of fruit, we need to know the health benefits that come with filling your diet with whole foods, including watermelon, to make sure we all are eating to improve our health and well-being. This article will go into detail about the amazing nutrients found in watermelon. 

Inflammation is made by the immune system when it detects damage or invading pathogens. It is essential to defend yourself and fight against any infections, however, excessive levels of inflammation can become damaging to your health. Under normal conditions, when you are experiencing an illness, such as a cold, your immune system will send out signals which lead to an inflammatory response. This inflammatory response will then clear the infection and the immune system will then send out inhibitory signals, causing the inflammatory response to die down. However, in some cases, the inhibitory signals can become weakened or stop altogether. This allows the immune system to continue sending out inflammatory signals and, thus, inflammation will gradually become excessive or chronic throughout your body. Chronic inflammation can lead to healthy tissues and organs becoming damaged which can lead to long-term health issues. What you eat has a massive impact on the levels of inflammation within your body and can also aid your immune system in preventing excessive inflammation from occurring.

Healthy compounds within watermelon

The foods we consume have a profound impact on our health, both physical and mental, but unfortunately many of us follow a diet that is not in our health’s best interest. This includes eating highly processed foods and following a mostly animal product-based diet. However, in recent years, a mostly plant-based diet has been gaining popularity which is not only amazing for your overall health and longevity but also great for the environment.
Many healthy compounds in watermelon keep your bodily systems running smoothly and also keep harmful chemicals at bay. Furthermore, studies have been done which have concluded that watermelon can keep your weight in check whilst also bringing down some inflammatory markers, highlighting that this fruit is great for your overall health.1

L-citrulline and L-arginine

L-citrulline is an amino acid, which is a building block for protein, which can be found in abundance within watermelon. When L-citrulline is consumed, it is converted into nitric oxide which is a natural vasodilator. A vasodilator is a chemical that causes your blood vessels to increase in size and allow for more blood flow to a certain area. This can be good for reducing blood pressure.

Across the world, cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death. In addition to maintaining a healthy exercise routine, your diet has a profound impact on the health of your heart. Highly processed food or foods high in saturated fats can increase cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels can be linked to adverse health through the deposition of fatty material within your blood vessels. These deposits can build into hard clumps which will eventually break away and cause a blockage of your arteries, leading to stroke or cardiovascular disease. Luckily, watermelon has many healthy compounds which can help to decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.

A study conducted by Hong et al., looked at L-citrulline and L-arginine as these two compounds have been shown to lower cholesterol whilst also decreasing your inflammation levels and healing damage from oxidative stress. By using watermelon as a source of L-arginine and L-citrulline, they found that this fruit causes amazing effects throughout your body which include anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertensive, and anti-oxidative. More specifically, the rats used within the study had significantly lower cholesterol levels which can greatly improve cardiovascular function and health whilst also reducing your risk of stroke. The rats also had lower lipid peroxidation which means that they had much lower levels of oxidative stress, and therefore, less inflammation.2 

Hydration

Many of us do not consume enough water which can harm our health. Over half of our bodies are composed of water so, to keep our organs functioning properly, we need to keep hydrated. If you become dehydrated, nasty chemicals such as toxins will start to accumulate, leading to inflammation. It may not come as a surprise to you that watermelon is made up of over 90% water which keeps you well hydrated. Adding this to your diet will help keep your hydration levels up, as well as keeping inflammation levels low.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C has strong anti-oxidative properties which can have a great impact on your health and at lowering inflammation levels. Antioxidants can neutralise harmful agents called free radicals which will cause damage to your cells and, if left unchecked, excessive levels of inflammation can arise. Chronic inflammation can arise from free radicals through oxidative stress, which is damage to your body due to free radicals and other harmful agents called reactive oxygen species. The damage caused by oxidative stress signals to the immune system that help is needed, which then leads to the release of pro-inflammatory proteins called cytokines.If your diet does not include anti-oxidants regularly, this inflammation can build up and, over time, can lead to serious health complications.

Lycopene

Watermelon is high in phytochemicals, more specifically lycopene. Lycopene is pigmented which gives watermelon along with tomatoes and red peppers their colour. Lycopene aids your immune system in clearing free radicals which is great for reducing inflammation and great for your overall health. Lycopene is also known to protect against cancer through the reduction of inflammation as well as being great for your heart health.

Eating watermelon if you have inflammatory conditions

Due to the plethora of anti-inflammatory compounds within watermelon, this fruit has been recommended to eat if you have, or are at risk for, inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Watermelon has been shown to keep the levels of an inflammatory marker, CRP, low. CRP, or C-reactive protein, is released in response to inflammation but it also drives an inflammatory response. This means that trying to keep CRP low through your diet,  to reduce inflammation within your body.3 

CRP can drive an inflammatory response through the release of pro-inflammatory proteins called cytokines. Cytokines will signal to the immune system that there is something wrong which brings more immune cells to the area. This increases your inflammation levels greatly and can have terrible effects.4  This ability to reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines is great for those with inflammatory conditions as this can help to ease symptoms.

Incorporating watermelon into the diet

A daily serving of watermelon is about 150 grams, which is around a cup. Watermelon can be eaten every day, and this will give you all the health benefits mentioned above. Watermelon is easily accessible in most supermarkets and can be added to your diet very easily, such as added to smoothies, juices, and fruit salads, or even enjoyed on its own as a snack. Watermelon can also be grilled and seasoned to be added to a salad or another dish.

Incorporating watermelon into the diet is easy and should be enjoyed as part of a healthy and varied diet that includes a plethora of fruits and vegetables as well as other whole foods. This gives your body the help it needs to keep you healthy whilst also keeping your risk of health issues a bay. As well as eating a healthy diet, keeping yourself active is important to reduce your risk of conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

Summary

  • Watermelon is packed with vitamins and minerals that can help you live a healthy and balanced life
  • Anti-oxidants have amazing benefits that have a profound impact on your health. This includes anti-inflammatory effects through the reduction of oxidative stress which can have amazing systemic effects
  • Watermelon can be great for your cardiovascular health as it reduces cholesterol levels and induces vasodilation
  • Watermelon can be recommended to help ease symptoms of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis
  • Watermelon can be eaten daily with no health concerns and can be easily added into the diet through a range of different ways including smoothies, juices, and salads

References

  1. Wirth MD, Shivappa N, Khan S, Vyas S, Beresford L, Sofge J, Hébert JR. Impact of a 3-Month Anti-inflammatory Dietary Intervention Focusing on Watermelon on Body Habitus, Inflammation, and Metabolic Markers: A Pilot Study. Nutrition and Metabolic Insights. 2020;13:117863881989939.
  2. Hong MY, Hartig N, Kaufman K, Hooshmand S, Figueroa A, Kern M. Watermelon consumption improves inflammation and antioxidant capacity in rats fed an atherogenic diet. Nutr Res. 2015;35(3):251-8.
  3. Du Clos TW. Function of C-reactive protein. Annals of Medicine. 2000;32(4):274-8.
  4. Sproston NR, Ashworth JJ. Role of C-Reactive Protein at Sites of Inflammation and Infection. Frontiers in Immunology. 2018;9.

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Suzanna Nock

BSc (Hons) Immunology and Pharmacology, University of Strathclyde, Scotland

With a strong interest for science, Suzanna pursued a degree in Immunology and Pharmacology in one of the top universities in Scotland.

During her final year and with the hopes of delving into a career in medical writing, she joined Klarity as an intern where she has elevated her writing skills and increased her range of knowledge within other areas of science and healthcare.

my.klarity.health presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
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