July 26, 2006

Ice-cold watermelon less nutritious: study

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - That ice-cold watermelon may be
refreshing, but it can be less nutritious than watermelon
served at room temperature, U.S. Department of Agriculture
scientists reported on Wednesday.

Watermelons stored at room temperature deliver more
nutrients than refrigerated or freshly picked melons, they
reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Penelope Perkins-Veazie and Julie Collins of the USDA's
South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory in Lane,
Oklahoma looked specifically at carotenoids -- antioxidants
that can counter the damage caused by sun, chemicals and
day-to-day living.

Watermelon is rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that makes
watermelons and tomatoes red and may help prevent heart disease
and some cancers.

Perkins-Veazie and Collins tested several popular varieties
of watermelon stored for 14 days at 70 F (21 C), 55 F (13 C)
and 41 F (5 C).

Whole watermelons stored at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, which is
about room temperature in air-conditioned buildings, had
substantially more nutrients, they reported.

Compared to freshly picked fruit, watermelon stored at 70 F
gained up to 40 percent more lycopene and 50 percent to 139
percent extra beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin


"All watermelons used in our study had been selected by
commercial growers as fully ripe when harvested," the
researchers wrote.

They said their findings showed watermelons continue to
produce these nutrients after they are picked and that chilling
slows this process.

"The usual shelf life for watermelons is 14 to 21 days at
13 degrees Celsius (55 F) after harvest," the researchers

At refrigerated temperatures, like 41 F (5 C), watermelon
starts to decay and develop lesions after a week, they noted.