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Research SC Researchers explore health benefits of watermelon By Licia Jackson, Editor



uppose you could learn to follow a simple diet that would make you feel better and help protect you against cancer and heart disease? As a side benefit, you would lose extra weight and maintain a healthy body mass index. Yet another plus would be helping local farmers by consuming more of their produce — in this case, watermelon. Such dietary guidelines are in the works based on research by Dr. James R. Hébert, professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and director of the S.C. Statewide Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the University of South Carolina. Hébert, a world-renowned nutritional epidemiologist, has developed the Dietary Inflammatory IndexTM (DII®), a measure of how inflammatory individual foods are to a person’s body and organs. The DII® looks at 45 specific food parameters to rate each food. It is based on results of 1,943 research studies published in peer-reviewed literature. “We understood our scoring system is valuable. We’re looking at individual foods,” said Julia F. Houston, MSW, executive director for Connecting Health Innovations. CHI is a company founded by Hébert to focus on leveraging his research results in commercial markets. CHI was funded by the National Watermelon Promotion Board to study the anti-inflammatory effects of watermelon within an individual’s diet. Sonny Dickinson, owner of The Dickinson Group and CHI’s business products manager, is focused on increasing whole foods consumption and increased yields of local farms. South Carolina is the fifth-leading producer of

Watermelons can be grown in all 46 South Carolina counties. Research finds the melon helps with hydration and with preventing chronic inflammation in the body. (Photo/S.C. Department of Agriculture)

watermelon in the U.S. The study exploring the effects of watermelon on reducing systemic inflammation has recently concluded. Participants in the study took part in a series of weekly classes over 12 weeks and were provided meal plans designed to include watermelon in two meals per day. Recipes were developed using the entire melon, including rind and seeds as well as the flesh of the fruit. The participants provided positive feedback from participating in IMAGINETM (Inflammation MAnaGement INtErvention), CHI’s counseling system, which provides culinary sessions, physical activity and stress reduction practices, and one-on-one counseling by DII®-certified counselors, Houston said. Data were collected through questionnaires and blood samples to measure

C-reactive protein, a primary means of tracking inflammation levels and fasting blood sugar levels. As various foods are studied, the Dietary Inflammatory IndexTM can be used to score them on a range from most anti-inflammatory to most pro-inflammatory. A simple grade system, known as the Inflammation Food Grade SystemTM — with A being less inflammatory and F more inflammatory — is reflected on foods and recipes to guide consumers on their healthy foods selections. When chronic inflammation exists in the body, the body’s natural signal to fight an infection never gets turned off, Hébert explained. This causes damage to the body and its organs over time. A person who is in a state of chronic inflammation can’t mount an inflammatory response to new infection.

2017 SCBIZ - Winter  
2017 SCBIZ - Winter  

SCBIZ is the quarterly magazine serving senior level decision-makers across the entire state of South Carolina. In addition to the print pub...