story to find out more.
Before analyzing it
in the lab, technician Shelia Magby (left) and plant physiologist Penelope
Perkins-Veazie examine a freshly sliced mini-watermelon. Click the image
for more information about it.
Studies Yield Low-Sugar Watermelons, Probe
"Minis'" Nutrition By
Luis Pons December 2, 2004
What's new with watermelon? Try low-sugar and "mini" varieties. Both
were the focus of recent Agricultural
Research Service studies in Lane, Okla.
At the ARS
Central Agricultural Research Laboratory at Lane, plant geneticist
Davis has developed watermelons that would be welcome news to people
looking to lower their sugar intake. Meanwhile, plant physiologist
Perkins-Veazie expanded previous work confirming watermelon's high lycopene
content, finding that mini-watermelons--a recent addition to the
marketplace--are rich in the health-promoting compound.
According to Davis, decades of breeding practices have increased
watermelon's sugar content to up to 14 percent, making it off limits to people
looking to curb sugar intake. She said her low-sugar melons are just like
regular watermelons--crisp and refreshing.
Davis' study found that pigments such as lycopene, which are
considered key for watermelon consumer acceptance--the redder, the better--can
occur without high sugar content.
Meanwhile, Perkins-Veazie investigated the nutritional aspects of
mini-watermelons, which are about six inches in diameter and have been
commercially available for about two years.
She tested 15 lines and found them chock-full of lycopene and
beta-carotene. Lycopene has been linked to reduced incidence of certain cancer
types and lower heart-attack risk. Beta-carotene is converted in the body to
vitamin A, which promotes clear vision, bone growth and healthy
Average lycopene concentrations in mini-melons ranged from 6,700 to
9,600 micrograms per 100 grams of melon. Several varieties scored higher
lycopene levels than previously reported for conventional watermelons, which
ranged from 3,700 to 6,900 micrograms per 100 grams.
Perkins-Veazie's latest studies were simplified by a technique she,
Davis and Lane biochemist
Fish developed that allows for rapid determination of watermelon's lycopene
Mini-melons are the result of conventional plant breeding, according
about this research in the December 2004 issue of Agricultural Research
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.