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Carotenoids Higher in Room-Temp Watermelon

Watermelons are riper, healthier when stored at 70 degrees Fahrenheit

FRIDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) -- Watermelons stored at room temperature are riper and have higher levels of lycopene and beta-carotene than refrigerated melons, according to a study in the Aug. 9 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Penelope Perkins-Veazie, Ph.D., of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Lane, Okla., and colleagues report that watermelon stored at 70 degrees Fahrenheit for two weeks gained 11 percent to 40 percent more lycopene and 50 percent to 139 percent more beta-carotene compared to freshly picked watermelons. By contrast, levels of these carotenoids remained the same in watermelon stored at 55 and 41 degrees Fahrenheit. The new findings may be related to increased activity of the enzymes involved in the carotenoid pathway.

Watermelon stored at 70 degrees Fahrenheit also had slightly thinner rinds, elevated pH and soluble solids content than non-stored fruit, while watermelon stored at 55 degrees Fahrenheit had little change in these markers of ripeness. The watermelon stored at 41 degrees Fahrenheit had a lower pH and a rind thickness that is similar to that of fresh fruit.

"The ability of some watermelon cultivars to accumulate lycopene and beta-carotene when held at [70 degrees Fahrenheit] after harvest may be useful for processors wishing to obtain these carotenoids for the natural products market," the study authors conclude.

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