Atherosclerosis is a progressive
process of plaque buildup on the inside of blood vessels causing hardening of
arteries. It decreases blood flow and oxygen delivery and is responsible for
most heart disease.
Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus
) possesses many bioactive compounds including
citrulline that has shown to influence atherosclerosis. So, in a joint study
from Purdue University and University of Kentucky, Aruna Poduri and colleagues,
investigated the effects of extracts of watermelon'sentinel' variety on atherosclerotic mice.
They divided 8-week old
high-cholesterol induced atherosclerotic male mice into two groups. Both groups
were given diets high in saturated fats and cholesterol but the experimental
group was given water containing 2 percent watermelon juice (C. lanatus
'sentinel' extract), while
the control group received the same amount of water containing 2 percent of
mixture of matching carbohydrates. The mice were fed this diet for 12 weeks.
The findings were:
The watermelon extract group
showed 50 percent decrease in atherosclerosis without affecting systolic blood
This group was also found to
have 50 percent less LDL or the bad cholesterol.
Consumption of watermelon
extract led to 30 percent reduction in weight gain as compared to that of
The experimental group had
lower fat mass without influencing lean mass than the control group.
However, Sibu Saha, a professor
of surgery at the University of Kentucky and the co-author of this study,
suggested doing further research to confirm the findings. 'We know that
watermelon is good for health because it contains citrulline,' he said, but 'we
don't know yet at what molecular level it's working, and that's the next step'.
Shubin Saha, another co-author of
the study and Vegetable Extension Specialist at Purdue University, said 'About
20 percent of each year's watermelon crop is wasted either because the fruit is
visibly unappealing to consumers or because some growers find it too expensive
to pay for harvesting as prices drop during the height of watermelon season'.
He therefore suggested that the wasted melons could be used for 'extracting
Shubin Saha is interested in
continuing to investigate how concentrations of citrulline and lycopene found
in watermelon affect health, and also whether other varieties of watermelon
have more health benefits.