How watermelon could prevent heart attacks AND weight gain
Daily slice could halve the build-up of 'bad' cholesterolIt could also help prevent weight gain
11:01 GMT, 4 October 2012
Could watermelon the key to lowering cholesterol
A daily slice of watermelon could help prevent heart disease by halting the build-up of harmful cholesterol, new research shows.
Scientists who carried out studies on mice fed a high-fat diet found the fruit halved the rate at which 'bad' low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, accumulated.
LDL is a form of cholesterol that leads to clogged arteries and heart disease.
Researchers from Purdue University in the US also found eating watermelon regularly helped to control weight gain and resulted in fewer fatty deposits inside blood vessels.
They believe the secret to watermelon’s health-boosting properties lies in citrulline, a chemical found in the juice.
Previous studies have suggested citrulline has a role to play in heart disease prevention by lowering blood pressure.
Although the latest investigation showed no significant effects on blood pressure, it did reveal watermelons had a powerful impact on other heart risk factors.
Heart disease is Britain’s biggest killer. Around 270,000 people a year suffer a heart attack and nearly one in three die before they reach hospital.
Fatty diets, lack of exercise and smoking are all key risk factors.
Cholesterol is a type of fat produced by the liver that is essential to help the body produce hormones, absorb vitamin D and make bile to digest foods.
It is transported in the blood by tiny ‘couriers’, called lipoproteins.
LDL carries cholesterol away from the liver and dumps it in major blood vessels, where it can cause a life-threatening blockage.
High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, has the job of transporting cholesterol back to the liver to be safely disposed of.
Current guidelines in the UK recommend keeping total cholesterol below 5mmols per litre, a measurement of how much fat there is in each litre of blood in the body, with LDL accounting for no more than 3mmols/litre.
But an estimated 20 per cent of patients with excessive LDL levels are classed as resistant to statins – the drugs taken by around seven million people in the UK to control cholesterol.
Cholesterol causes the arteries to narrow, raising the risk of heart attack and stroke
The latest study, published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, suggests watermelon juice could help.
Researchers fed two groups of mice a high-fat diet but gave one water to drink and the other watermelon juice.
They tracked their health for several months and at the end of the experiment found the mice given watermelon juice had 50 per cent less LDL than those on water – despite eating the same diet.
They also weighed an average of 30 per cent less, but their blood pressure was no different.
Research leader Dr Shubin Saha said: ‘We didn’t see a lowering of blood pressure. But these other changes are promising.
‘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.’
Some studies suggest the chemical is vital for the production of nitric oxide, a gas that widens blood vessels.
This research follows another recent study published in the Journal of Functional Foods which suggested eating apples each day could significantly improve the heart health of middle-aged adults in just one month.
Those who ate a daily apple over four weeks lowered 'bad' cholesterol in the blood by 40 per cent.
Taking capsules containing polyphenols, a type of antioxidant found in apples, had a similar, but not as large, effect.
Bad cholesterol can interact with free radicals to become oxidized, which can trigger inflammation and can cause tissue damage.