This Week in Health: watermelon lowers blood pressure in study

Watermelon slices
High blood pressure? Watermelon might do the trick.
Credit: Thinkstock

Watermelon lowers blood pressure in study

Location of study: United States

Study subjects: 13 middle-aged men and women with obesity and high blood pressure

Results: People with high blood pressure may want to perk up. New research out of Florida State University found watermelon to significantly cut blood pressure in overweight people. More specifically, patients taking amino acids present in watermelon extract experienced a noticeable decrease in blood pressure. The effects occurred during times of rest, as well as while under stress. The amino acids work by relaxing the smooth muscle of the arteries, bringing down blood pressure in the process.

Significance: The study was prompted by the fact that more people die of heart attacks when exposed to cold weather (the stress of cold temperatures leads to narrowed blood vessels in the heart, which increases blood pressure). To simulate the effects of cold weather conditions, participants placed their hands in 39-degree water while researchers measured their blood pressure. Researchers say that people with obesity and high blood pressure are at an increased risk for stroke and heart attack when exposed to cold temperatures.

Scientists discover gene that plays key role in breast cancer progression

Location of study: United States

Study subjects: Animal models

Results: For women with triple negative breast cancer, the outlook is often grim. Scientists have recently discovered that a gene previously thought to be unassociated with the disease may actually be a key player in the progression of triple negative breast cancer. When the gene (known as XBP1) was silenced in lab cultures and in animal models, it blocked tumor progression and relapse.

Significance: The findings represent a viable new research focus. “It’s one of the most aggressive types of breast cancers,” said Dr. Xi Chen, lead researcher at Weill Cornell Medical College. “So far, there are very few treatment options.”

Beer marinade may cut cancer-causing compounds in grilled meat

Location of study: Portugal

Results: As barbeque season approaches, many are eager to fire up the grill. New research now suggests that beer marinade may reduce the levels of potentially harmful substances in grilled meats. In a recent study, researchers grilled samples of pork marinated for four hours in Pilsner beer, non-alcoholic Pilsner or black beer ale. All meat samples were cooked to well done on a charcoal grill. Of all the marinades observed, black beer was the most effective in lowering the levels of harmful substances. In fact, it cut them by more than 50 percent when compared to the unmarinated pork.

Significance: Previous studies have linked colorectal cancer to the consumption of grilled meats. When meats are cooked at extremely high temperatures, like on a backyard grill, food borne cooking carcinogens can form. It appears that antioxidants from beer counteract these formations.

More health concerns related to e-cigarettes

Location of study: U.S.

Results: Electronic cigarette use is on the rise in the United States. In fact, sales are expected to hit $1.5 billion this year. But as e-cigarettes pick up more and more steam, many wonder about the potential health concerns. Researchers at the American Chemical Society report that a recent study detected small amounts of six toxic substances in the vapor of several different e-cigarette brands. Researchers also found low levels of cadmium, nickel and lead in the vapor.

Significance: E-cigarettes fall into a gray area when it comes to potential health risks. At this point in time, there simply isn’t a substantial amount of data about the safety of these devices when used over long periods of time. They’re also currently unregulated by the FDA. Even so, they may represent the lesser of two evils. “If every smoker switched from regular cigarettes to e-cigarettes, 90 percent or more of smoking-related health problems would go away, which would be a huge public health benefit,” said Dr. Neil L. Benowitz, chief of the Division of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of California San Francisco.

Gratitude might be the key to happiness

Location of study: United States

Study subjects: 246 people with an average age of 21

Results: New research is echoing what some have been saying for years – money doesn’t buy happiness. According to researchers, people who are materialistic are less likely to be satisfied with their lives. Experts partially attribute this to the fact that materialists have a harder time being grateful for what they already have. People who are material-focused are also more likely to have low self-esteem and to be less satisfied in their relationships. Conversely, those who are grateful are more likely to be happy and to find meaning in life.

Significance: Researchers say their findings reinforce the “treadmill of consumption” theory. “That new 2,500-square-foot house becomes the baseline for your desires for an even bigger house,” study co-author Dr. James Roberts of Baylor University said in a statement. “We continue to purchase more and more stuff, but we don’t get any closer to happiness. We simply speed up the treadmill.”

Content provided by ZipTrials, a trusted source for the most up-to-date medical news and trending health stories.



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