Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) is rich in l-citrulline, an l-arginine precursor that may reduce cardiovascular disease risk. The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of watermelon powder and l-arginine on lipid profiles, antioxidant capacity, and inflammation in rats fed an atherogenic diet. We hypothesized that watermelon and l-arginine would increase antioxidant capacity and reduce blood lipids and inflammation by modulating hepatic gene expression. Male Sprague-Dawley rats aged 21 days (N = 32) were assigned to 3 groups and fed diets containing watermelon powder (0.5% wt/wt), l-arginine (0.3% as 0.36% l-arginine HCl wt/wt), or a control diet for 9 weeks. Watermelon and l-arginine supplementation improved lipid profiles by lowering serum concentrations of triglycerides, total cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (P < .050). Serum concentrations of C-reactive protein were significantly lower (P < .050) in the watermelon and l-arginine groups. Rats in the watermelon and l-arginine groups showed reduced oxidative stress, increased total antioxidant capacity, and higher concentrations of superoxide dismutase and glutathione S-transferase (P < .050). Concentrations of aspartate aminotransferase, alkaline phosphatase, and lactate dehydrogenase were lower (P < .050) in the watermelon and l-arginine groups. Watermelon and l-arginine consumption upregulated hepatic gene expression of endothelial nitric oxide synthase and downregulated expression of fatty acid synthase, 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase, sterol regulatory element-binding protein 1, sterol regulatory element-binding protein 2, cyclooxygenase-2, and nuclear factor-κB p65 (P < .050). The results support the hypothesis that watermelon and arginine improve cardiovascular disease risk factors including lipid profile, antioxidant capacity, and inflammation by altering relevant gene expression.
Keywords: Antioxidants; Cardiovascular disease; Hepatic gene expression; Inflammation; Rat; Watermelon.
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