Citrulline, a compound present in the watermelon, may reduce the risk of developing atherosclerosis and control body weight gain, according to a study published online in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
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.
AdvertisementWatermelon (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 pressure.
• 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 control group.
• 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 beneficial compounds'.
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.