Have you been told that a lack of exercise and poor eating habits are putting you at risk for cardiovascular disease? Looking for ways to lose weight, lower cholesterol and take some pressure off of your hard-working heart?
A new study out of Purdue University recently found that watermelon juice could hold the key to tackling all of these health issues at once. Published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, the research suggests that citrulline, a compound found in watermelon, plays a role in cardiovascular health.
To test their theory, researchers fed two groups of mice diets high in saturated fat and cholesterol (just like what the average American eats every day). Then, half the mice were given water containing 2 percent watermelon juice, while the others received water supplemented with a solution that matched the carbohydrate content of the watermelon juice.
The mice that consumed watermelon juice gained about 30 percent less weight than the control group and had about 50 percent less LDL cholesterol (the “bad cholesterol”). The experimental group also had about a 50 percent reduction of plaque in their arteries, as well as elevated levels of citrulline.
“We were interested in citrulline because previous studies showed that it may lower blood pressure,” said Shubin Saha, a Purdue Extension vegetable specialist and study co-author. “We didn’t see a lowering of blood pressure, but these other changes are promising.”
If you’re a conscious consumer who’s dedicated to living a healthy life, you probably already knew that watermelon was good for you…there are few fresh fruits and vegetables that aren’t. Still, isolating the beneficial properties of citrulline could be an indirect way to reduce food waste around the world. Nutraceuticals, or holistic medicines, are becoming a huge part of the healthcare market. Using watermelon to create a citrulline supplement could create demand for watermelons that can’t be sold in the store or farmers’ market. According to Saha, 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.
“We could use the wasted melons that can’t go to market for extracting beneficial compounds,” Saha said. “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.”
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