According to research from Purdue University and University of Kentucky, mice that were given a diet which included watermelon juice received considerable benefits when compared to the control group.
The experts suggest, in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, that citrulline, a compound found in watermelon, was responsible for the mice's lower cholesterol, weight, and arterial plaque.
This study coincides with prior research, also by the University of Kentucky, which found that watermelon consumption caused a reduction in atherosclerosis in animals.
Since other research has demonstrated that consuming this type of fruit can lower blood pressure, explained Shubin Saha, co-author and a Purdue Extension vegetable specialist, they were interested to examine what it could do in this research.
"We didn't see a lowering of blood pressure, but these other changes are promising," Shubin Saha added.
The scientists divided mice into two groups for their investigation, both were given diets high in saturated fat and cholesterol. One group drank water that consisted of 2% watermelon juice, while the other mice drank the exact amount of water mixed with a solution that matched the carbohydrate content of the fruit juice.
Results showed that nearly 50% less LDL cholesterol, or the "bad" cholesterol, was found in the animals who drank the watermelon juice. A different study by scientists at the Ohio State University, also published this week, found that apples can lower blood levels of iodized LDL as well.
A 50% decrease in plaque in the arteries, as well as high citrulline levels, were found in the experimental group, who also gained 30% less weight than the control group.
"We know that watermelon is good for health because it contains citrulline," revealed Sibu Saha, a professor of surgery at the University of Kentucky. "We don't know yet at what molecular level it's working, and that's the next step."
The team hopes to discover a secondary market for watermelons in nutraceuticals, which are food or food components that provide health and medical benefits, such as preventing and treating certain diseases.
Approximately 20% of watermelon crop goes to waste each year, according to Shubin Saha. It may be because buyers think the fruit does not look appealing or because some farmers do not think it is worth spending that much money on harvesting it, as prices drop during the peak of watermelon season.
Shubin Saha explained:
"We could use the wasted melons that can't go to market for extracting beneficial compounds. Growers are putting energy into these crops, so if we can do something to help them market their additional product, that would be a benefit to the industry and consumers."
Shubin Saha is furthering his research on citrulline, as well as lycopene, another compound found in watermelon, in order to determine how they both affect people's well-being. He is also interested in examining whether individuals receive more health benefits from certain types of watermelons.
Written by Sarah Glynn