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Melon enzyme reduces stress

21st September 2009

An enzyme contained in melons may combat stress, and has antioxidant properties.

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Superoxide dismutase is an enzyme that works in defence of more than 99% of all living organisms exposed to oxygen.

In the recent French study, 35 volunteer subjects took a capsule containing the enzyme, and 35 took a placebo.

Though the scientists noted a strong placebo effect, its effects were temporary and those who took the enzyme were less tired and stressed than those who took the placebo.

The subjects who received the enzyme in capsule form were able to boost their endurance in the face of fatigue, heighten their concentration, and sleep well.

According to the researchers, who were from the commercial health products company Seppic, the surprisingly strong initial placebo effect might have been exaggerated by the fact that the study participants already had average levels of everyday stress.

If people with higher levels of stress had taken part in the study instead, there might not have been as much of a change in the reactions of the group taking placebo.

Scientists believe that the enzyme increases the resistance of cells to a process called oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress is thought to be caused by an imbalance in the way the cells of living organisms produce an unstable form of oxygen.

Normally, a living organism's cells use enzymes in order to combat this unstable form of oxygen.

However, that requires a constant use of metabolic energy, which the organisms do not always have.

Marie-Anne Milesi, the lead researcher, said that several studies have shown that there is a link between psychological stress and intracellular oxidative stress.

She said that the research team wanted to test whether augmenting the body's ability to deal with oxidative species might help a person's ability to resist burnout, and that they believe it would be interesting to confirm these effects and better understand the action of antioxidants on stress.

Laura Wyness of the British Nutrition Foundation, said she felt a bigger trial would be needed.

Scientists believe oxidative stress may be involved in the development of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and multiple conditions affecting the heart.

 

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