Watermelons 'may help prevent heart attacks and weight gain'

London, October 5 (ANI): Researchers including one of Indian origin have suggested that a daily slice of watermelon could help prevent heart disease by halting the build-up of 'bad' cholesterol.

Scientists who carried out the study on mice, which were fed a high-fat diet, found that the fruit halved the rate at which 'bad' low-density lipoprotein (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 that eating watermelon regularly helped to control weight gain and results in fewer fatty deposits inside the blood vessels.

They believe the secret to watermelon's health-boosting properties lies in citrulline, a chemical found in the juice.

Although the latest investigation showed no significant effects on blood pressure, it did reveal watermelons had a powerful impact on other heart risk factors.

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 (HDL) has the job of transporting cholesterol back to the liver to be safely disposed of.

The latest study suggests that 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 that the mice given watermelon juice had 50 percent less LDL than those on water despite eating the same diet.

They also weighed an average of 30 percent less, but their blood pressure was no different.

"We didn't see a lowering of blood pressure. But these other changes are promising," the Daily Mail quoted research leader Dr Shubin Saha as saying.

"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," he added.

The study has been published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. (ANI)