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Natural substance in melons relieves stress and fatigue

Saturday, October 17, 2009 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: melons, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) Is there food that you correlate with stress? A fast food, high calorie meal grabbed at a drive-in restaurant might fill the bill. But the color, smell, juicy sweetness and cool texture of a delicious melon -- whether a cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew or another kind -- conjures up a relaxing scenario. Now scientists have found that a natural substance derived from melons may actually be an antidote to stress.

When most of us say we are experiencing too much stress, we mean we are overloaded with work, personal problems, and life in general. Of course, a certain amount of stress can be stimulating and even exciting. But when we have stressors without a break, a host of symptoms from irritability and an inability to concentrate to a fast heartbeat, headaches and a reduced resistance to infections can develop. So it's not hard to suspect a causal connection between feeling stressed out and showing physical symptoms.

In fact, recent studies have demonstrated a correlation between perceived stress and what scientists call oxidative stress -- a steady state level of oxidative damage in a cell, tissue, or organ caused by the reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS, such as free radicals and peroxides, represent a class of molecules derived from the metabolism of oxygen that has been linked to several diseases, including metastatic breast cancer.

Antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD) enzymes are known to help break down potentially harmful oxygen molecules in cells, potentially preventing ROS damage to tissues. So scientist Marie-Anne Milesi and her colleagues at Isoclin, a clinical research organization located in Poitiers, France, decided to test an ingredient derived from a melon which is rich in SOD enzymes to see if augmenting the body's ability to deal with ROS would help people resist burnout from high stress levels.

For their double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, just published in BioMed Central's open access Nutrition Journal, the scientists recruited seventy healthy volunteers between the ages of 30 and 55 years who complained of experiencing daily stress and fatigue. Once a day for four weeks, 35 of the research subjects took a dietary supplement based on a proprietary melon juice concentrate (corresponding to 140 IU of SOD per capsule) and the other 35 were given a placebo. Stress and fatigue were measured using four different psychometric scales known as FARD, PSS-14, SF-12 and the Epworth scale.

There were no adverse side effects found but the group that received the melon juice concentrate capsule had significantly reduced signs of stress and fatigue. They experienced better concentration, less weariness and insomnia and less irritability. In a statement to the press, Milesi noted there was a strong placebo effect in the 35 research subjects who received an inactive capsule filled with starch. However, the group that received the actual melon-derived SOD had far greater improvements in fatigue and feelings of stress, especially after four weeks.

"The placebo effect was only present during the first seven days of supplementation and not beyond. It will be interesting to confirm these effects and better understand the action of antioxidants on stress in further studies with a larger number of volunteers and a longer duration," Milesi said.

In additional research news about stress relief from melons, this summer Japanese scientists from the Institute of Gerontology at Nippon Medical School in Kawasaki reported in the journal Behavioral Brain Research that a SOD supplement derived from melons prevented stress-induced impairment of cognitive function in animal studies. The researchers also found that melon superoxide dismutase extract promoted antioxidant defenses in the brain and prevented stress caused impairment of spatial memory.

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