Hippocrates, the father of medicine, taught his stu¬dents 2,500 years ago, "Let food be your medicine." While you may have a few pumpkins sitting around as decorations for Halloween and Thanksgiving, it’s their seeds that provide a potent combination of vitamins, minerals, and other health-promoting nutrients.
Pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo) are native to North America, where the American Indians traditionally prized these large orange gourds for their nutritional and multi-functional uses. New information indicates that the pumpkin seed may be a powerful functional food that is particularly effective for treating bladder dysfunction, and might also help in treating and preventing heart disease, osteoporosis, and arthritis.
Improving Bladder Function
Many people in middle age and beyond are plagued by urinary problems that often disturb their sleep. They are awakened one or more times nightly with the urge to urinate. Though many of these people resort to prescription medications for this problem, a handful of pumpkin seeds daily might be a safer and more effective treatment.
Pumpkin seeds appear to be remarkably effective in treating overactive bladder, a condition that causes a sudden urge to urinate and can sometimes result in mild urinary incontinence. Studies show that about one in six adult men and women suffer with symptoms of overactive bladder including urinary urgency, and frequent daytime and night urination. An overactive bladder can disturb sleep and reduce overall enjoyment of life.
Encouraging results have been reported in both animal and human studies using pumpkin seeds for treating overactive bladder, showing significant decreases in the number of daytime and nighttime urinations and improved quality of sleep.
Furthermore, pumpkin seeds appear to provide significant relief for aging men dealing with urinary problems caused by BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia), or an enlarged prostate. One study found that a pumpkin seed extract used for three months in 53 men ages 50 to 80 years old increased urinary flow volume (urine stream) by 40 percent and decreased nighttime urinary frequency 30 percent, compared with those on placebo.
For Healthy Heart, Strong Bones
Pumpkin seeds appear to improve several cardiovascular disease risk factors. Studies of animals and humans show that pumpkin seeds can reduce cholesterol, especially the bad LDL cholesterol. One potential reason that pumpkin seeds reduce LDL cholesterol may be their high concentration of phytosterols, which are plant compounds that decrease absorption of cholesterol from the diet.
Among nuts and seeds, pumpkin seeds are near the top in phytosterol content. Pumpkin seed oil has also been found to have favorable effects on the HDL, or good cholesterol. In one randomized controlled study, pumpkin seed oil caused a 16 percent increase in HDL cholesterol levels and a seven percent drop in diastolic blood pressure levels, probably through the positive effects on the production of nitric oxide, a beneficial compound made by the lining of healthy young blood vessels.
Pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium, phosphorous, and zinc—minerals that are key to maintaining strong bones and preventing osteoporosis. Additionally, powerful antioxidant compounds present in pumpkin seeds may also ease inflammation associated with arthritis.
Pumpkin seeds with their remarkable array of health-promoting nutrients, including magnesium, vegetable protein, niacin, and zinc, along with high tryptophan and essential fatty acids, provide a powerful health boost that lowers risk factors for heart disease and osteoporosis and provides powerful relief for people suffering from overactive bladder or prostate enlargement. Make it a point to include these nutritional stars in your diet on a daily basis to reap their wide-ranging health benefits.
How to Add Pumpkin Seeds to Your Diet:
• Add pumpkin seeds to soups, stews, and meatloaf.
• Sprinkle them on top of salads, berries, and yogurt.
• Have a handful or two of raw or roasted pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas) daily as a snack.
Dr. O’Keefe is a cardiologist with Saint Luke’s Cardiovascular Consultants, located in Lee’s Summit at 20 N.E. Saint Luke’s Blvd., Suite 110, 816-931-1883.He is also the chief medical officer at CardioTabs.