It will come as no surprise to health-minded individuals that compounds from natural fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds directly alter genetic expression to promote health and prevent many chronic diseases. A number of prior studies have extolled the many virtues of eating an apple each day to prevent cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer.
National Watermelon Day is today, and the celebration of the annual holiday has become the butt of scores of racist jokes on Twitter, despite the fact that there is no factual basis for the stereotype that black people enjoy watermelon more than people of other ethnicities.
Watermelon is the next food to ascend to nutritional stardom, as it fights the accumulation of arterial plaque to help prevent a heart attack and is proving to be an important ally in weight management. A research team from Purdue University and the University of Kentucky has published the results of a study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry that finds watermelon has many potentially bioactive compounds including citrulline, which may influence the development of atherosclerosis.
Scientists using a mouse model known to mirror human biochemistry found that consuming a diet including watermelon and watermelon juice provided considerable cardiovascular health benefits as compared to a control group. The team determined that citrulline, a bioactive compound found in watermelon, was responsible for lowering levels of deadly oxidized LDL cholesterol, reducing the volume of arterial plaque and aiding in weight management for the supplemented animals.
Citrulline from watermelon reduces arterial plaque volume to prevent heart disease
For this study, scientists divided mice into two groups that were fed a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Half of the mice drank water that consisted of two percent watermelon juice, while the other mice drank the same amount of water mixed with a solution that matched the carbohydrate content of the fruit juice. Researchers found that the watermelon-supplemented group experienced a 50 percent lower level of oxidized LDL cholesterol, a result consistent with past studies using apples.
More importantly, a 50 percent decrease in arterial plaque was detected in the supplemented group, as well as high circulating levels of the potent antioxidant, citrulline. The scientists also determined that the supplemented mice gained 30 percent less weight than the control group. The researchers concluded "We know that watermelon is good for health because it contains citrulline.... we don't know yet at what molecular level it's working, and that's the next step."
As nutrition scientists continue to study the precise health-promoting mechanisms behind watermelon consumption, we can add this important fruit to the growing list of natural, raw foods that help prevent chronic disease. This study used a very low concentration of watermelon juice (two percent) to achieve a significant reduction in arterial plaque volume. Consuming the tasty fruit several times a week should provide lower risk of heart attack and cardiovascular disease when eaten as part of a diet that eliminates processed and refined foods.
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