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No, watermelon seeds won’t get rid of kidney stones – antinutrients found in the fruit’s seeds can cause the uncomfortable disorder

IN SHORT: Facebook posts claim watermelon seeds or a tea made from them can get rid of kidney stones. But research shows that watermelon seeds can in fact contribute to the formation of kidney stones and experts recommend seeing a doctor instead.

A Facebook post claims watermelon seeds will clear out the kidneys and are a home remedy for getting rid of kidney stones. 

The 1 November 2023 post reads, in part: “According to American scientists in the early 20th century, watermelon seeds are very helpful for kidney and urinary tract.  They said you can use an infusion from fresh seeds, which is a good diuretic and useful for cleaning the stones and sand of the kidneys and urinary tract.” 

The kidneys are two organs that remove waste and extra fluid from your body. Kidney stones are also called nephrolithiasis, and are hard mineral and acid salt deposits that clump together in concentrated urine. Although they don’t often cause long-term harm, passing kidney stones can be very uncomfortable.

Similar claims about the benefits of watermelon seeds can be found here and here.

But can watermelon seeds get rid of kidney stones? We checked.

False watermelon seed tea claim

Kidney stones

There are different kinds of kidney stones: calcium, struvite, uric acid and cystine stones. Calcium stones are the most common. Kidney stones are caused by various factors, including diet and hereditary disorders.

According to the US’s National Kidney Foundation, doctors will sometimes ask patients to drink a lot of water in order to avoid surgery, in an attempt to let the stone pass. 

Medication to reduce the acidity of your urine is another option to avoid kidney stones. However, surgery may be required to remove the stone if it is too big, obstructs the flow of urine or shows signs of infection.

Healthline lists several home remedies that may help dissolve kidney stones, making them easier to pass, though the health information website also warns that “some herbal remedies may interact with certain medications or supplements”. However, watermelon or its seeds were not listed. The platform also advises patients to see their doctors before they use home remedies.

Antinutrients and kidney stones

A study of the antinutrient contents of watermelon suggests that oxalates, phytates and tannins are found in watermelon seeds, the effect of which can be reduced by boiling and roasting of the seeds.

Antinutrients are natural compounds that interfere with the body’s absorption of essential nutrients. They are also present in part of the grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits that make up a healthy diet. 

Phytates found in watermelon can prevent kidney stones from forming by stopping the development of calcium crystals, according to Harvard School of Public Health.  But humans lack the enzyme needed to break phytates down.

ScienceDirect also notes that phytate is found in beans, grains, nuts, and seeds and “inhibits kidney stone formation by complexing with calcium and preventing crystallisation”.

Oxalates can form crystals in the urine. “This can happen if there is too much oxalate, too little liquid, and the oxalate ‘sticks’ to calcium while urine is being made by the kidneys,” according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Healthline also says that oxalate is part of the most common kidney stones formed in the body, calcium oxalate crystals.

Lastly, tannins have a connection to cholesterol. A study carried out on mice showed that cholesterol and tannins have key roles to play in the formation of kidney stones.

Other research findings also suggest that antinutrients have relationships with kidney stones. While one antinutrient can prevent kidney stones, others contribute to the formation of kidney stones in the human body.

‘Seek out medical doctors,’ nephrologist advises

Africa Check contacted Dr Babaniji Omosule, a nephrologist at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital in the UK. He said watermelon is a good fruit with antioxidant and diuretic properties that ensure good urination, and is high in citric acid, which may be why it has been touted as a treatment for kidney stones.

“However, to the best of my knowledge, there is no guideline or recommendation anywhere stating that watermelon or its seeds can be used as a cure for kidney stones.”

On the treatment of kidney stones, Omosule said that anyone with stones “needs to be assessed to determine the size and type of stone and the eventual therapy will be either drugs or surgery”.

He then suggested that people should seek advice from medical doctors when they have medical problems, rather than relying on the internet.

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