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AGRICULTURE REPORT – July 23, 2002: Watermelon Studies - 2002-07-22

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

Watermelon is popular in the United States. Many people enjoy eating it on a hot, summer day. Watermelon has a hard outer skin and a soft area on the inside. About ninety-three percent of the fruit is water. Most watermelons have many seeds. However, some are grown to have no seeds.

American scientists are studying how watermelon influences human health. They are finding that it has vitamins, minerals and other chemicals important for good health.

Watermelon contains the vitamins A, B-six, C and thiamin. It also contains potassium. Watermelon also is one of the few foods that contain large amounts of lycopene (LIE-ko-peen). Lycopene is a red chemical found in some plants. It also is present in tomatoes, red and pink grapefruit and guava.

Many studies have shown that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer. Scientists have found that lycopene in the diet reduces the risk of some cancers. Lycopene in fat tissue has been linked with a reduced risk of heart attack.

Until recently, most lycopene studies have involved tomatoes. However, scientists with the Agricultural Research Service are studying lycopene levels in watermelon. They want to learn how well the human body breaks down and uses lycopene.

Agricultural Research Service scientists in Oklahoma grew and studied thirteen kinds of watermelon. They measured the amounts of lycopene in the melons. The scientists found that the watermelons without seeds generally had more lycopene. Tests also showed that watermelon had as much or more lycopene as uncooked tomatoes.

Two years ago, Agricultural Research scientists in Maryland organized a nineteen-week study to identify the health effects of lycopene. For the study, twenty-three adults ate a controlled diet and drank watermelon juice during three treatment periods. Later, the people received either watermelon or tomato juice. The study found that both liquids increased lycopene levels in the blood.

In the United States, there is interest in selling watermelon juice. A company in California is making an all-natural version of the product. It is selling watermelon juice in California and Oregon.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.