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International Journal of Food Properties
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Watermelon as a potential fruit snack
Makaepea M. Maoto, Daniso Beswa & Afam I. O. Jideani
To cite this article: Makaepea M. Maoto, Daniso Beswa & Afam I. O. Jideani (2019) Watermelon
as a potential fruit snack, International Journal of Food Properties, 22:1, 355-370, DOI:
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/10942912.2019.1584212
© 2019 Makaepea M. Maoto, Daniso Beswa
and Afam I. O. Jideani. Published with
license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
Published online: 04 Mar 2019.
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Watermelon as a potential fruit snack
Makaepea M. Maoto
, Daniso Beswa
, and Afam I. O. Jideani
Department of Food Science and Technology, School of Agriculture, University of Venda, Thohoyandou, South
Department of Life and Consumer Sciences, School of Agriculture and Life Sciences College of Agriculture
and Environmental Sciences, University of South Africa, South Africa
With the rapid increase in cardiovascular diseases, health-conscious consumers
are increasingly showing more interest in foods that provide health benefits
beyond the provision of essential nutrients. Watermelon contains phytochem-
icals such as lycopene, vitamin C, β-carotene, and Total polyphenolic content
that possess anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antioxidant properties. Dietary
intake of these products with antioxidants properties is important in maintain-
ing human health and well-being. These reduces incidence of chronic diseases
such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and some coronary heart diseases,
through inhibiting formation of free radicals and reactive oxygen species.
The presence of these phytochemicals enhances its potential use as
a functional ingredient in food application. This paper aims to characterize
the phytochemicals found in watermelon, and emphasis is directed toward the
role of natural antioxidants in reducing the risk of chronic diseases to discou-
rage the use of synthetic antioxidants. Moreover, another focus is on seeking
the recognition of watermelon as a potential snack and to support its tradi-
Abbreviations: WJC: Watermelon juice concentrate; ROS: Reactive oxygen
species; DNA: Deoxyribonucleic acid; CVD: Cardiovascular diseases; BHA:
Butylated hydroxyanisole; BHT: Butylated hydroxytoluene; WHO: World
Health Organization; SVCT: Sodium-dependent vitamin C transporters;
LDL: Low-density lipoprotein; HDL: High-density lipoprotein; HPPPEF: High-
pressure processing and pulse electric field; TS: thermosonication
Received 8 November 2018
Revised 8 February 2019
Accepted 14 February 2019
A trend in snacking has increased markedly in recent years. However, unlike in past years,
consumers are conscious about their health due to heavy burden of noncommunicable diseases
like hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases (CVD).
As a result, their percep-
tion of food has progressed from being affected mainly by taste and appearance to considering the
concept of optimal nutrition by avoiding foods that are associated with nutritional inadequacy.
The recent dietary recommendation of increasing the intake of diet rich in natural antioxidants
has generated an interest in replacing energy-dense snack per day with fruits that possess
This trend also creates a demand in the food industry for production of nutritious
food preferably from natural origins in order to satisfy consumer needs. In this context, consumers
are encouraged to snack on natural products such as fruit and vegetables. Watermelon (Citrullus
lanatus) is an exotic quintessential fruit that contains nutrients and phytochemicals reported to be
beneficial to human health.
It is a good source of vitamins B, C, and E as well as minerals such as
phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and iron.
Epidemiological studies have demonstrated that it
CONTACT Makaepea M. Maoto firstname.lastname@example.org Department of Life and Consumer Sciences, School of Agriculture and
Life Sciences College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, University of South Africa, Private Bag x6, Florida 1710, South Africa
Color versions of one or more of the figures in the article can be found online at www.tandfonline.com/ljfp.
© 2019 Makaepea M. Maoto, Daniso Beswa and Afam I. O. Jideani. Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/),
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF FOOD PROPERTIES
2019, VOL. 22, NO. 1, 355–370
possesses antioxidants with anti-inflammatory, antihypertensive properties as well as a protective
effect against carbon tetrachloride-induced toxicity.
Literature has recorded that natural phyto-
chemicals such as polyphenols, vitamin C, β-carotene, and lycopene mediate their effect via other
mechanisms such as regulation of cell growth, immune system response, and modulation of gene
Identification of health-promoting compounds in watermelon fruit and their ben-
efits to human health are the focus of the study. It is hoped that the accumulated information will
encourage watermelon consumption.
Background of watermelon
Watermelon is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family native to tropical areas of Africa near Kalahari
Botanists refer it as a “pepo”which is a fruit having a thick rind and fleshy center.
largely consumed as refreshing summer fruit, much appreciated by the consumers because of its
refreshing capability, attractive color, delicate taste, and high water content to quench the summer
According to Oberio and Sogi,
watermelon fruits yield 55.3% juice, 31.5% rind, and 10.4%
pomace. Carotenoids such as lycopene and β-carotene are responsible for the red and orange colors
of the watermelon, respectively (Figure 1). The sweetness of watermelon is mainly due to
a combination of sucrose, glucose, and fructose. Sucrose and glucose account for 20–40% and
fructose for 30–50% of total sugars in a ripe watermelon.
The chemical components of watermelon enhances its capacity to scavenging the low-density
lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) in a cell membrane.
A plethora of evidence
shows thatit can be effective for weight loss due to its low sodium, saturated fat, and cholesterol (Table 1).
Several epidemiological and retrospective clinical studies have evinced a positive correlation between diet
rich in phytochemicals and reduced risk of CVD (Table 2). As a result, consumption of watermelon has
been associated with various health benefits such as lowering the risk of developing heart diseases, age-
related degenerative pathologies, and some kinds of cancer.
In addition, it is also a rich source of
citrulline, which is a nonessential amino acid.
Figure 1. Images of different watermelon cultivars.
356 M. M. MAOTO ET AL.
Consumption of raw watermelon fruit on hot summer days is a common practice which has been
observed across the world; however, to increase utilization and availability throughout the year, water-
melon is processed into variety of commercial products.
In addition, Kim et al.
stated that the lycopene-rich nature and health benefits of the watermelon juice make it an
excellent choice for preparing additional functional foods in order to increase utilization. It has been
used in the production of a variety of products like juice, smoothies, jams, sweets, and sauces.
in the needs of modern lifestyle, freshly cut watermelon stands out as convenient ready-to-eat novel
snack for consumers who are health-conscious but have less time for food preparation.
packaged watermelon products are still commercially rare in most countries.
Formation and prevention of diseases in a human body
A healthy and normal human body is sustained by all the biochemical reactions that take place in the
cells and organelles of our bodies. Ijah et al.
reported that oxidation reaction leads to formation of
Table 1. Phytochemical content of fresh watermelon juice per
Parameter Value Reference
Energy 30–46.2 Kcal 
7.6–11.6 g 
Protein 0.6–0.9 g 
Total fat 0–0.15 g 
Cholesterol 0.00–0.01 mg 
Dietary fiber 0.4–0.61 g 
Vitamin A 569–864.88 IU [12,14]
Vitamin C 8.1–12.31 mg 
Lycopene 3.38–11.34 mg 
Sodium 0.0–0.001 
Ash 5.2–5.4% 
Moisture 93.12–95.2% 
Calcium 7 mg 
Iron 0.24 mg 
Magnesium 10 mg 
Potassium 112 mg 
Phosphorus 11 mg 
Table 2. Diseases and associated health benefits of some quality parameters.
Disease Parameter Outcomes Reference
Citrulline Improved cardiac autonomic function in sedentary obese postmenopausal
women, increase plasma arginine
Hypertension Lycopene Improved plasma agitation 
Stroke Vitamin C Stroke reduction [16,17]
Breast cancer patients Lycopene Serum lycopene associated with decreased risk [6,11]
Osteoporosis Lycopene Can counteract the damaging
effects of oxidative stress which causes osteoporosis
Liver disease Vitamin C Decrease of 58.2% serum alanine aminotransferase and 49.4% of high-
sensitivity C-reactive protein and also minimize damage and slow disease
Human metabolism Vitamin C Least risk of inadequacy or adverse health effects. 
CVD mortality β-carotene Reduced the hazard ration in CVD and coronary heart diseases 
High cholesterol in
macrophage cell line
Lycopene Lowered cholesterol synthesis 
Low libido Citrulline Improve erectile functions 
Flue and scurvy Vitamin C Prevents and treats variety of ailments, scurvy, and a simple cold [1,20]
Eye health Vitamin A Enhances optimal eye functioning 
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF FOOD PROPERTIES 357
free radicals in a human body. Free radicals are highly unstable atoms, ions, or molecules that
actively react with other molecules and affect the normal functioning of the deoxyribonucleic acid
(DNA) and cell membrane.
The cellular redox process of free radicals and reactive molecules
leads to the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that plays a dual role as both toxic and
In fact, chemical reactions, free radicals, and some redox reactions are
a source of oxidative stress of macromolecules in living cells.
This leads to damage of the cellular
components including lipids, DNA, and proteins.
This destruction results in diseases such as CVD,
cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases (Figure 2). CVD is reported to be the major cause of death in
the European countries; it is further forecasted that in 2030 the number of deaths due to cardio-
vascular disorders will be around 23.6 million.
Modifiable factors (e.g. high cholesterol, obesity, arterial hypertension, and diabetes) as well as
non-modifiable factors such as age, race and heredity are factors that accelerate formation of diseases
in a human body.
In addition, Kulczynski et al.
reported that, life style risk factors such as
snacking on unhealthy food, eating habits, lack of exercise, smoking, and alcohol intake also have
significant effect on formation of diseases. It is believed that a balanced diet which includes adequate
nutrients and phytochemicals is crucial in inhibiting the damage effects of free radical through
improvement of body’s antioxidant status.
Romdhane et al.
reported that antioxidants are
molecules capable of scavenging oxidation reaction. Antioxidants have the ability to trap ROS and
prevent its formation (Figure 2). They are also capable of inhibiting and neutralizing free radicals
and their actions by (1) electron transfer; (2) electron addition, which results in radical adduct
formation; and (3) hydrogen atom transfer at level of prevention, interception, and repair of
Phytochemicals such as lycopene and β-carotene have shown to have antioxidant, anti-
inflammatory, and hypotensive properties; therefore, their inclusion on diet results in positive effects
on the human body.
They (1) prevent oxidative changes in the plasma lipoprotein structure, (2)
prevent macular degeneration and the development of cataracts, (3) prevent oxidized LDL forma-
tion, (4) reduce the nitrogen oxide bioavailability and they synthesis prostacyclin (PGI2), which
causes blood vessels to relax and become reduced.
They may also enhance the immune system
function and inhibit tumor progression in some cancers.
Synthetic antioxidants such as butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene are often
used in the food, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical industries.
However, these antioxidants are
expensive and are reported to be detrimental to human health resulting in dangerous health effects,
including liver damage and carcinogenesis.
The risks and concerns associated with the use of
synthetic antioxidants and antimicrobials have triggered the interest of consumers toward consump-
tion of food rich in natural antioxidants as an alternative. Accumulating evidences favor the use of
natural antioxidants and presume them to be safer than synthetic antioxidants because they display
little or no toxic side.
As a result, attention in identifying natural sources of antioxidants that can be used as potential
inhibitors of diseases with less side effects has increased. Watermelon contains sufficient nutrients
and phytochemicals which have antioxidant properties and therefore helpful in the prevention of
diseases such as hypertension and arthritis.
In fact, many researchers proved that consumption of
watermelon is a practical approach leading to the reduction of chronic disease.
make watermelon as a useful functional ingredient.
Watermelon nutrition and health benefits
Consumption of watermelon is desirable by consumers as it shows many positive biological effects,
which are mostly connected to being fat-free, cholesterol-free, low in sodium, rich in minerals and
As a result, consumption of watermelon provides long-term health benefits such
as reduced risk of heart disease, improved blood pressure in hypertension patients, decrease LDL
oxidation, and exert a cardio protective effect.
Compared to well-known fruits like tomatoes,
358 M. M. MAOTO ET AL.
Absorption of phytochemicals
consumption, lack of
exercise, unhealthy diet),
nutritional deficiency and
natural cause (Aging,
Interacts with cellular
biomolecules (lipids, proteins
Inhibits or Chronic diseases (cancer, hypertension,
diabetes, heart attack and cardiovascular diseases
Figure 2. Formation of diseases and action of phytochemicals.
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF FOOD PROPERTIES 359
strawberries, and guavas, watermelon has higher antioxidant capacity.
and fiber are the major components that make up watermelon (Table 1). All these components are
present in their most beneficial forms. Watermelon has recently received attention for its fewer
quantities of fats; it is therefore considered a constituent of a healthy diet low in cholesterol and
Owing to its reported nutrients, watermelon is regarded as a medicinal plant.
As fruit, it has low energy density and is therefore recommended for weight management.
Adedeji and Oluwalana
indicated that watermelon is a good source of minerals and vitamins
since it contains 11 minerals and 19 vitamins. It has vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin,
and folate. In addition, it has minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and
Owing to these properties, watermelon consumption can be useful in maintaining acid–
base balance in the body that has a major role in normal physiology, maintaining appetite and
In addition, Adedeji and Oluwalana
reported that minerals such as calcium
and potassium play an important role in cell regulation, maintenance of the cell structure, and cell
Bailey et al.
found that supplementation with watermelon juice improves aspects of vascular
health in individual with hypertension. Presence of vitamins makes watermelon to be helpful in
supporting normal vision and skin health, managing cholesterol, supporting normal appetite and
nervous system function and may be involved in normal muscle contraction.
The World Health
Organization (WHO) recommends that the optimal diet for everyone is through the consumption of
a low-fat, fiber-rich carbohydrates.
Watermelon juice and pulp contain considerable amounts of
fiber and carbohydrates. Fiber plays a significant role in blood cholesterol, which helps in the
prevention of large bowel diseases while carbohydrates are the source of energy for the cells.
Ijah et al.
and Alam et al.
indicated that watermelon is rich in vitamin B, which is responsible
for the production of energy in the body. Taking into consideration these health-promoting para-
meters, watermelon extracts can be incorporated in to cosmetics, food, and pharmaceutical products.
Phytochemicals and their contribution to human health
Consumption of food rich in phytochemicals has long-term benefits to human health. Watermelon
has the following phytochemicals:
) is a carotenoid with the highest degree of unsaturation;
it is a straight chain
hydrocarbon with 13 double bonds, 11 of which are conjugated.
Lycopene is available in trans
configuration from natural sources (Figure 3) while in a human plasma, lycopene is an isomeric
mixture containing 50% of the total lycopene as cis isomers.
It is visible as a red pigment that gives
fruits such as watermelon, guava, red bell peppers, and tomato their desirable color.
contributes to about 21–43% of the total carotenoids and is accumulated in the human tissue.
Lycopene is derived from fruits and vegetables.
Therefore, it is incorporated into the body
through diet. The estimated lycopene intake in developed countries is 5–7 mg/day and it is assumed
that approximately 10–30% lycopene is absorbed in the body.
After consumption, lycopene enters
the stomach for digestion, it changes into a lipid phase, which is dispersed under the influence of bile
salts and pancreatic lipases.
Formed liposomes are absorbed through the intestinal walls via
passive transport and using a transporter –scavenger receptor class B type 1 protein.
It is further
incorporated into lipid micelles in the small intestine and eventually distributed in a form of
chylomicrons to fatty tissues and organs such as liver, testes, seminal vesicles, and adrenal glands.
Lycopene is a strong antioxidant; therefore, it is an effective free radical scavenger and oxygen
quencher among all carotenoids.
In fact, lycopene-scavenging rate is higher than β-carotene
and tocopherol; in vitro studies have proven lycopene twice as potent as β-carotene and ten times
that of α-tocopherol in terms of its singlet oxygen quenching ability activity.
Initially, it was
360 M. M. MAOTO ET AL.
reported that tomato contains the highest amount of lycopene than all fruits.
study by Oberio and Sogi
has reported watermelon as the fruit containing the highest bioavailable
lycopene which is about 60% more than that found in tomato which makes it the lycopene leader
among fresh produce. Thermal processing induces isomerization of lycopene bioavailability.
Hence a heat-processed tomato is said to contain more bioavailable lycopene than a fresh tomato.
Watermelon pomace is reported to be a concentrated source of lycopene as compared to the juice.
Oberoi and Sogi
found watermelon pomace to be 20–24 mg/100 g. Studies are still ongoing to
determine the part of watermelon that contains the most concentrated source of lycopene. The quantity
of lycopene in watermelon varies according to cultivar type and growing conditions.
become a compound of interest to both food and health researchers due to its reported benefits on
Lycopene has a higher ratio of 1:12 to carotene in a watermelon and this yields
remarkable antioxidant capacity.
It bears significant potential for consideration in both the treatment
and the prevention of some chronic diseases (Figure 3). According to this specific characteristic, foods
high in lycopene are referred to as functional foods.
Recently, demand for natural form of lycopene has increased, mainly because it is effective at
curbing the destructive free radicals including nitrogen dioxide, sulfide, singlet oxygen, and inhibit-
ing DNA and cellular membrane damage.
Because of its antioxidant functions, it reduces
lipids by preventing the formation of enzymes involved in cholesterol synthesis.
Johary et al.
have reported that while lycopene is recognized for its importance as an antioxidant, its biological
effect is also influenced by other mechanism such as intercellular gap junction communication,
hormonal and immune system. Physical and chemical mechanisms are two major mechanisms that
Figure 3. Chemical structure of β-carotene, lycopene, and its isomers obtained by thermal processing.
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF FOOD PROPERTIES 361
have been established to explain the antioxidant properties and anticarcinogenic activities of
Elumalai et al.
further explained that physical mechanism involves conveying of
energy from free radicals to lycopene forming excited isomerized lycopene.
In relation to lycopene being helpful in the body, Naz et al.
further reported that its activity
depends on its molecular and physicochemical properties and site of action within the cells For
example, lycopene is fat soluble; therefore, its absorption is improved by the presence of oil in the
Oberio and Sogi
reported that intake of lycopene is associated with decreased risk of
various cancers such as breast, colon, stomach, oral cavity, prostate, and lung cancer. Functional
drinks derived from lycopene have potential to reduce malignant transformation of oxidized
cholesterol in diabetic state.
Lycopene restrains the carcinogen-induced phosphorylation of reg-
ulatory proteins and ceases cell division at the G0-G1 cell cycle phase.
Lycopene prevents inflammation by reducing production of pro-inflammatory mediators includ-
ing interleukins, nitric oxide, tumor necrosis factor, and the transcription nuclear factor in macro-
phages CVD and stroke.
Evidence in literature shows that lycopene has tumor suppressor
activity; it also decreases cellular proliferation induced by insulin-like growth factors that have an
effect on mitogens in various cancer cell lines and further inhibits abnormal cellular growth in the
In addition, regulation of gap–junction communication in embryo fibroblast cells gives
lycopene its anticarcinogenic effects.
As a result, intake of lycopene-containing products is
associated with a reduced incidence of cervical, breast, bladder, and prostrate cancers.
Johary et al.
further indicated that lycopene is involved in the regulation of intrathymic
differentiation, which is a mechanism that plays an important role in stopping the growth of
mammary tumor. Through this mechanism, cells are able to communicate with each other to ensure
proper cell and organ function. Epidemiological studies have suggested that pathogenesis of insulin
resistance and diabetes may result from inadequate intake of dietary lycopene; this may be because
serum lycopene has a reverse relationship with tissue and mortality of cerebrovascular diseases.
The consumption of fruits that are rich in lycopene such as watermelon is therefore considered
pivotal due to the role it plays in prevention of chronic diseases; it is nontoxic without known side
effects. Further research is crucial to articulate underlying mechanisms of lycopene on human health.
Areas of interest may be based on formulating daily allowance based on age and health disorders as
well as interaction of lycopene with other phytochemicals.
β-carotene is a lipophilic macronutrient and an insoluble vitamin which includes a group of
unsaturated nutritional organic compounds including retinoic, retinal, and retinol.
It is made
of 40 carbon atoms and contains 11 conjugated and 2 unconjugated double bonds.
a very low solubility in number of solvents such as water and ethanol due to its highly conjugated
Visible as the orange color in fruits and vegetables, it serves as a precursor for vitamin
A in a human body.
Lin et al.
indicated that β-carotene is absorbed in an intestine directly by
intestinal epithelial cells. β-carotene is obtained in trans configuration form and transformed to cis
isomers through photo-induced and thermal isomerization (Figure 3).
Chen et al.
stated that β-carotene cannot be synthesized by the body; therefore, it is primarily derived
from plant-based foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, watermelon, and mangos. β-carotene can
be utilized as a functional food ingredient; however, it is poorly bioavailable and its absorption is lower than
Watermelon contains substantial quantities of β-carotene.
Kim et al.
content of fresh watermelon flesh to be 4.82 mg/g. As with other phytochemicals, the amount of β-carotene
varies according to cultivar type and environmental factors.
It has the ability to exhibit both antioxidant
activity and pro-oxidant properties.
Because of these properties, β-carotene has desirable power in
inactivating certain ROS and is useful in neuroprotective effect protecting against LDL and HDL.
carotene inhibits free radical through transferring electrons which lead to formation of carotenoid cation
radical and hydrogen atom transfer.
362 M. M. MAOTO ET AL.
The antioxidant potential of β-carotene has been widely investigated and some positive results
have been reported.
Among other important effects on human health, β-carotene intensifies
platelet aggregation increasing the growth factor expression, which leads to the reconstruction of
blood vessel walls.
Among other functions, it has been shown to be important for the main-
tenance of the immune system; it supports cell growth and differentiation playing a role in the
formation and maintenance of the heart, kidney, and other organs.
neutralizes the damaging molecules which results in defying age naturally.
It helps the body to
absorb light in the eyes for good vision and further functions as growth factor for epithelial cells and
modulates gene function mainly due to the enzyme dioxygenase, which is present in the human
small intestine mucosa, and it converts β-carotene into retinol.
According to Nzamwita et al.
this nutrient is essential for maintaining the integrity of
epithelial tissues, growth, and the proper functioning of the immune system. It is known for the
β-carotene is also known for its potential anticancer attributes.
It plays an
important role in reducing the risk type 2-diabetes and lowering metabolic syndrome in middle-aged
It may also enhance the immune system function and inhibit tumor progression in some
Children, pregnant and lactating women are reported to be the most vulnerable groups to vitamin
The WHO has reported that about 250 million preschool children are affected by
vitamin A deficiency as a result about 250,000–500,000 of these children become blind every year.
Due to the health benefits of this phytochemical, the demand for it as an additive in for functional
food applications as well as a supplement is growing.
Vitamin C (C
) is used as a general description for all organic compounds exhibiting biological
activity of ascorbic acid.
It has two main components which are ascorbate and dehydroascorbic
Pacier and Martirosyan
further reported that vitamin C was first identified in citrus fruit,
vegetables, and adrenal glands as hexuronic acid in the 1920s by a Hungarian biochemist Albert
Szent-Györgyi. It is an essential nutrient that cannot be synthesized by the human body; therefore, it
has to be incorporated in the body through diet.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble essential nutrient
that is frequently added to a variety of food products for nutrient enhancement and supplementation
important for biosynthesis of collagen and certain hormones.
Pacier and Martirosyan
mentioned that ascorbate transportation in a human body involves two
sodium-dependent vitamin C transporters (SVCT): SVCT1 and SVCT2. Most of it is transported by
SVCT1 in epithelial cells (e.g. liver, intestine, and kidney) and then SVCT2 transports the rest in specialized
cells such as brain and eye. Vitamin C is classified as chain breaking antioxidant which inhihibits lipid
As a result, several cohort studies have recommended consumption of food naturally
containing vitamin C as opposed to synthetic supplements.
Pacier and Martirosyan
reported that the
main concentrations of vitamin C are located in the brain and adrenal cells.
Watermelon has been identified a good source of vitamin C.
According to Oberio and Sogi,
fresh watermelon juice contains 3.72 mg/100 g. As with other parameters, vitamin C vary due to
difference in the watermelon cultivars and environmental factors.
A cup of watermelon juice
contains 20% of the daily value for vitamin C. Pacier and Martirosyan
indicated that at least
10 mg dosage daily will prevent nutritive deficiency and scurvy. However, 90–500 mg daily is
recommended for optimal benefits.
Vitamin C may improve the quality of life for cancer patients in several potential mechanisms.
Patients with cancer usually suffers from vitamin C deficiency and are exposed to very high oxidative
Therefore, oral intake of this vitamin through natural sources may relief fatigue and
various other symptoms caused by a state of chronic vitamin C deficiency in these patients.
However, cancer pain varies among individual patients as a result, vitamin C requirements differ
depending on tumor types.
Vitamin C also has a potential to cut off the blood supply to growing
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF FOOD PROPERTIES 363
cancers and therefore inhibits cancer cell growth.
The other mechanism is that vitamin C has
therefore, consumption of foods that contain this vitamin C may suppress
cancer cell in patients by generating pro-oxidant activity, depending on blood concentrations.
In addition, as an antioxidant, it protects oxidation of LDL and HDL,
preventing cell damage
by free radicals.
It suppresses oxidants, which can lead to the development of chronic
It has long been reported beneficial in the prevention and treatment of a variety of
ailments, scurvy, simple cold as well as being stress resistant.
In addition to its numerous health
effects, it plays a role in cognitive functions due to its high concentration in the brain.
It is also
reported to be essential factor in the synthesis of carnitine, norepinephrine, and collagen.
Hong et al.
reported that increased consumption of vitamin C may have positive effect on
antioxidant status of smokers by reducing the oxidative stress of former and current smokers.
Available data from research studies on animals suggest that vitamin C deficiency in newborns
could cause impaired spatial memory due to decreased neurons, whereas in adults it results in
certain degenerative diseases such as dopamine auto toxicity, a major component of Parkinson’s
With hypertension currently being a major concern in the health facilities, vitamin C has
been shown to lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension.
Vitamin C decreases more
quickly with increased oxidative stress, so higher intakes can help to better manage the increased
Another group of individuals who are at risk includes those who are suffering from certain addictions,
obese pregnant women, and those who have more stressful environment.
Blood pressure of patients
living with hypertension dropped by 9.1% in patients who were given a dosage of 2 g and subsequent daily
doses of 500 mg for 1 month.
These result from less consumption of fruits that are an essential source of
this phytochemical. A proper intake of vitamin C-enriched diet over a lifetime will help to maintain our
current health and prevent future ailments.
As with other phytochemicals, consumption of natural
vitamin C is recommended as opposed to synthetic ones in the form of supplements. Future studies should
focus on method to determine the optimal oral intake of vitamin C for individual cancer patients.
According to Sonteriou et al.,
citrulline is a non-protein amino acid that is reported to be
abundant in watermelon. The researchers further reported that citrulline is an effective precursor
for arginine and a metabolic intermediate in nitric oxide cycle. It has emerged as an important
amino acid, a product of the nitric oxide cycle. Citrulline is considered a potent osmolyte and radical
scavenger against drought/salt stress.
Hong et al.
mentioned that the most abundant citrulline is
found in a watermelon, varying in amounts from 0.7 to 3.6 mg/g fresh. Kyriacou et al.
that a recent study done on 56 cultivars found the mean value of citrulline as 3.1 mg g
no correlation with cultivar type. Research is still ongoing to determine which part of the water-
melon contains more citrulline than the other (flesh, juice, and rind).
Odewunmi et al.
reported that citrulline is produced naturally in the body by an enzymatic
reaction of nitrogen–carbon contained L-glutamine and is mainly absorbed in the intestine. A natural
source of citrulline may be more bioavailable than a synthetic source.
A cohort study reported
that subjects consuming a constant high level of watermelon juice with each of three meals had
increased plasma arginine and ornithine concentrations compared with subjects not given dietary
These results demonstrate that plasma concentration of arginine can be increased
through the intake of citrulline from watermelon juice.
As an efficient hydroxyl radical scavenger and a strong antioxidant, a diet rich in citrulline is associated
with several health benefits.
Citrulline was found to be efficient in sections such as skeletal, pharmacol-
ogy, immunology, and neurology.
It has been reported to improve sexual stamina and erectile
although the exact mechanism of how it happens is still not known. As an amino acid, it is
important for young adults with trauma, burn injury, massive small bowel resection, and renal failure.
has also been found to be important in the prevention of anemia.
364 M. M. MAOTO ET AL.
Furthermore, citrulline is reported to be helpful in muscle relaxation and performances.
to this function, it can be crucial for enhancing sports nutrition. Total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol,
and HDL cholesterol levels have shown to be significantly improved by a supplementation of
L-arginine and L-citrulline.
Hong et al.
reported that oral consumption of L-arginine
enhances endothelial function in coronary artery disease patients. Research is still ongoing to
evaluate citrulline for its functional role as a radical scavenger against salt stress/drought.
In a study by Moinard et al.
on malnourished aged rats, an improvement of muscle mass,
muscle strength, and locomotor activity was observed after feeding the rats with citrulline-enriched
diet. Wong and colleagues investigated the effect of citrulline-enriched diet on obese postmenopausal
women. Their study reported 8 weeks of supplementation with L-citrulline has improved obese
postmenopausal women’s cardiac sympathyovagal balance.
Total polyphonic content
Polyphenols, commonly known as polyphenolic compounds, are defined as structural class organic
chemicals characterized by the presence of large multiples of phenol structural units including
phenolic acids, flavonoids, stilbenes, and lignans.
They are said to contain at least two hydroxyl
groups attached to an aromatic ring which is due to the presence of the –OH group.
They are the
most dominant antioxidant in a diet derived from fruits and vegetables.
After oral intake and
absorption, they go through extensive enzymatic modifications, resulting in the synthesis of glucur-
onidated, methylated, and sulfated compounds at intestinal and liver levels.
Total polyphenols of fresh watermelon juice are reported to be 16.94–20.23 mg GAE/100 ml.
Increasing scientific evidence has suggested that due to their antioxidant properties, daily consumption
of foods and beverages rich in polyphenols induces positive effects on human health, which results in
having specific biological activities affecting gene expression, cell signaling, and adhesion.
the ability to stop the formation of ROS in a human body.
García-Pérez et al.
have stipulated that
the benefits of preventing or repairing the damages inflicted by ROS and free radicalsin the body such as
obesity and diabetes are usually attributed to activity of phenolic compounds. Their study further
suggested that these benefits are related to mechanisms of modulation of multiple signaling pathways
in pancreatic β-cells skeletal myofibers hepatocytes, adipocytes, and antioxidants effects.
In vitro and in vivo studies have proven that polyphenols possess anticancer and anti-
It has shown to be effective in prevention of “psoriasis disease”, a skin
disorder affecting up to 2% of the world’s population driven by the immune system.
results in protective effects against a series of diseases such as diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders,
osteoporosis, inflammation, arthritis, high arterial pressure, and headaches.
health effects of polyphenols depend on both their respective intakes and their bioavailability.
Thus, consumption of watermelon juice can serve as a medicinal alternative.
evoked considerable interest among nutritionists, food manufacturers, and consumers because of
their safety and potential therapeutic value.
Research is still ongoing to identify and characterize
which of the hundreds of existing polyphenols are likely to be contained by watermelon.
Watermelon is perishable in nature because of its high pH (5.2–6.7) and high water activity
ranging between 0.97 and 0.99.
It is therefore susceptible to pathogenic microorganism due to
the gram-positive bacteria, which are very sensitive to low acidity.
Watermelon can be
considered a potentially hazardous food owing to its low acid nature;
as a result, the preserva-
tion of watermelon juice is important. To extend the shelf life and increase utilization, water-
melon juice is processed into various products considering consumer’sneedforsafe,nutritious
and convenient food. However, processing can result in loss of watermelon nutrients and
phytochemicals (Table 3). Jumde et al.
observed that during processing, fruits go through
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF FOOD PROPERTIES 365
units of operations like peeling, size reduction, mixing, and treatment. In the fruit juice industry,
high-temperature short-time processing is mostly applied. Although this method is effective in
minimizing microorganisms and enzymes, it degrades the nutritional and antioxidant content of
the fruit juices.
Currently, numerous researches have been done on utilization of innovative processing technol-
ogies that rarely affect low molecular weight molecules like color, aroma compounds, minerals,
nutrients, and antioxidants during units of operation.
Heat is reported to negatively affect the
quality parameters of watermelon because of its thermo-sensitive nature.
Temperature of above
78°C is reported to have detrimental effect on color change, separation of particles, as well as change
As a result, alternative processing technologies that are cost efficient and do not
compromise quality of the product should be applied during processing.
Since watermelon quality parameters are easily depleted by heat treatment,
processing methods must be utilized to minimize the degradation.
Opposed to thermal
technology, nonthermal processing is effective in retention of nutrients, flavor, and color during
High-pressure processing and pulse electric field are among processing methods that
can retain the quality parameters.
A combination of ultrasound and moderate heat known as
thermosonication is also more effective in enzymatic and microbial inactivation without affecting
Heat processing transforms lycopene and β-carotene from trans configuration cis
isomers (Figure 3) making them more bioavailable.
Even though watermelon was found to be the highest source of lycopene and citrulline among all
fruits, research has found that at least 85% of our dietary lycopene is supplied by tomato and tomato-
based products; therefore, there is a need to produce more watermelon-based products. Since
watermelon shows compatibility with other fruits, it can be used together with those fruits to
manufacture products that are more commercial. Research has indicated that the lycopene content
of watermelon is not totally depleted by processing methods.
Therefore, lycopene can be extracted
from the watermelon to be used in pharmaceuticals and food manufacturing industries as an
ingredient. Monitoring quality attributes of watermelons during processing is still an ongoing
research in order to produce high-quality products.
Moving forward into the future, it is
important to determine the internal qualities of watermelon as affected by maturity and processing
in order provide intensive understanding to food processors.
Snacking has become a habit among consumers in recent years. These snacking trends together with
unhealthy life styles may promote the formation of ROS and free radicals which results in non-
communicable diseases. As a result, replacing energy-dense snacks with fruits is encouraged. As
a functional food, watermelon is a quintessential summer fruit loaded with phytochemicals. These
Table 3. Effects of processing on watermelon antioxidants.
Processing method Effect on antioxidants References
High-intensity pulsed electric field Reduces vitamin C, high retention of lycopene, and antioxidants capacity in
Pulsed electric field High retention of lycopene 
Drying Loss in lycopene and vitamin C, degrade antioxidants capacity and total
Thermosonication Increase in lycopene, phenolic content is not much affected and ascorbic acid is
retained, free radicals scavenging activity mostly not affected
Pasteurization and sterilization Degradation of vitamin C, degradation of lycopene and polyphenols 
High pressure processing Preserve vitamins and citrulline, increase lycopene [31,59]
366 M. M. MAOTO ET AL.
phytochemicals have been reported for their pharmacological activities and therapeutic properties
such as analgesic, laxative, antigiardial, gastroprotective, hepatoprotective, antibacterial, antifungal,
antimicrobial, antiulcer, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory. In addition, it is fat-free and has very
low sodium and only has 40 calories per cup. These quality parameters have the ability to promote
the body’s own natural healing process, playing a role in both the prevention and the amelioration of
various diseases by suppressing the free radicals, decreasing oxidative stress leading to decrease in
the risk of chronic diseases such as cancers, hypertension, diabetes, skin problem, CVD, and asthma.
It is also helpful in obese women, pregnant women, athletes, smokers, and those with alcohol
addiction. Owing to these important nutritional parameters, snacking on 1 cup/152 g per day of
watermelon juice over a lifetime can help to maintain good health and prevent future ailments.
The authors thank Ms O. Sehoole for proof reading of the work and technical editing of the manuscript. They thank
Dr I. Ndlovu for language and grammar editing and University of South Africa library stuff for supplying with all
necessary study material and Internet to complete the study. They also thank Prof. Sogolo L. Lebelo for continuous
support and motivation. All authors contributed to this study.
This material is based upon research supported by University of Venda grants [SARD/17/FST/02] for post-graduate
studies and National Research Foundation  for financial support.
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