Researchers in the US have developed a low-sugar watermelon and investigated the health benefits of mini varieties of the fruit.

At the Agricultural Research Service's South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory at Lane, Oklahoma, plant geneticist Angela Davis has developed low-sugar watermelons, while plant physiologist Penelope Perkins-Veazie expanded previous work confirming watermelon's high lycopene content, finding that mini-watermelons are rich in the health-promoting compound.

According to Davis, decades of breeding practices have increased watermelon's sugar content to up to 14%, making it off limits to people looking to curb sugar intake. She said the low-sugar watermelons she developed are just like regular watermelons - crisp and refreshing.

Davis' study found that pigments such as lycopene, which are considered key for watermelon consumer acceptance, can occur without high sugar content.

Meanwhile, Perkins-Veazie investigated the nutritional aspects of mini-watermelons, which are about six inches in diameter and have been commercially available for about two years.

She tested 15 varieties and found them to be full of lycopene and beta-carotene. Lycopene has been linked to reduced incidence of certain cancer types and lower heart-attack risk. Beta-carotene is converted in the body to vitamin A, which promotes clear vision, bone growth and healthy reproduction.
The Agricultural Research Service is the US Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.