Submitted to: American Society of Horticulture Science Meeting
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: January 31, 2002
Publication Date: August 15, 2002
Citation: Perkins Veazie, P.M., Collins, J.K., Wiley, E.R., Edwards, A.J., Clevidence, B.A. 2002. Watermelon: A rich source of the antioxidant lycopene [abstract]. XXVI International Horticultural Congress. p.102.
Lycopene pigment provides the red color found in some fruits, notably tomato, and is found only in plants. Like other carotenoids, such as b- carotene, lycopene is a highly effective oxygen radical scavenger. Its properties as an antioxidant have lead to many epidemiological and some clinical intervention trials that indicate efficacy against cardiovascular disease and some cancers, particularly prostrate. Human uptake of lycopen from tomato based products is thought to be more effective after heat and processing treatments. Watermelons contain as much or more lycopene than tomatoes (USDA-NCC Carotenoid Database, 1998) but have been little studied as a consumer source of lycopene. We have done a number of studies with watermelon to determine maturity, storage, and minimal processing effects on lycopene levels. Additionally, feeding studies with watermelon juice and tomato juice have been done to determine uptake in humans. Twenty varieties of melons, including seeded and seedless types, had average values of 36 to 78 ug/g lycopene, and only red-fleshed watermelons had significant amounts of lycopene. Underripe and overripe melons had as much as 20% less lycopene than fully ripe melons, with maturity effects dependent on the variety. Storage of whole or cut melons reduced lycopene by 6 to 10%. Assays of human plasma after lycopene ingestion indicate that lycopene was as effectively obtained from watermelon juice as from tomato juice. Thus, watermelon fruit contains considerable lycopene, the pigment is maintained effectively in germplasm and with postharvest handling, and human uptake of lycopene from fresh watermelon is as effective as that from a heated and processed tomato product.