In Mexico, more than 20 thousand tons of watermelon are produced every year giving rise to a current overproduction issue. As the harvest time is too short and not all produce is collected, remains are left in the field, becoming an environmental problem. For this reason, the PhD. Adriana Carolina Flores Gallego, research professor of the Faculty of Chemical Sciences of Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila, developed a way to use the “waste”: A healthy snack based on watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) bark extract that is rich in bioactive compounds (polyphenols and citrulline).
The project was named “Utilization of by-products through the transformation and addition of value for the production of functional food (antioxidant and antiproliferative properties)” and was approved with 1 million 750 thousand pesos by the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT) through the “Development of Technological Innovations for a Mexican Agriculture Free of Toxic Agrochemicals. FOP08-2021-0” programme.
This product will be created from the transformation of watermelons that do not meet the quality standards for commercialization, adding nutritional value with anti-oxidant and antiproliferative functions, complying with the Official Mexican Standards of Microbiological and Sensory Quality.
Dr. Adriana Carolina Flores said that this project will have a duration of six months, with an impact on different areas, being health one of them, with the antioxidant and anti-proliferative effects in consumers. Moreover, the presence of compounds like polyphenols and citrulline bring an anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor effect and improve the regulation of the immune response.
She commented that many non-transmissible diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, or cancer, come from the oxidation process involved with breathing; and the watermelon peel contains many important compounds such as antioxidants. That’s why we need strategies to recover and use them as ingredients in the preparation of food.
The project will also have an impact on the agricultural sector. Watermelon producers from the municipality of Matamoros, Coahuila, will be trained to create strategies to use the products they cannot sell.
In the same way, she referred that this proposal aims to evaluate the effect obtained of agricultural subproduct, in colon cancer cell lines as in vitro tests, so that with different studies and formulations, it will be possible to know the adequate proportions for the extracted compounds to be added in the formulated snack.
Flores Gallegos stressed that this product will not serve as a treatment for cancer or diabetes, but brings beneficial effects and can be consumed for everybody. So that, it will not be exclusive for those who have any disease. She talked about the plans to patent the product, mainly, to protect the technology that will be used (specialized equipment for: food analysis, extraction process and analysis of compounds, antioxidants and antiproliferatives); as well as the possibility of marketing and packaging the product to achieve higher sales.
Dr. Adriana Carolina Flores Gallegos is a Level 1 member of the National System of Researchers (SNI for its spanish initials). She is a biopharmaceutical chemist with a specialty in microbiology from Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila, with both a Master’s and PhD degrees in food science and technology from the same University. She has carried out research stays at the University of Barcelona in molecular phylogeny in the department of genetics and at the MICALIS Institute of INRA in France
She is member of the Academic Body: Food Science and Technology, that belongs to the Basic Academic Nucleus of the postgraduate courses in Food Science and Technology of the UAdeC. Also, Flores Gallegos participates in the direction of three projects, two of them funded by SEP and COECYT; and another funded by SAGARPA-CONACYT. She has worked in the microbiology and bioprocesses area, specifically, fungi producers of metabolites with industrial interest, lactic acid bacteria, molecular biology and phylogeny, bioinformatics and proteomics.
The researcher has extensive experience in functional and proteomic genomics of enzymes with importance in the food industry, the reconstruction of phylogenies, as well as the isolation and evaluation of microorganisms and their metabolites.
Nowadays she is a member of the Thematic Network of Food Safety: Valorization of Agro-industrial By-Products and Reduction of Food Loss and Waste (PDA); and is part of the board of directors of the Mexican Society of Biotechnology and Bioengineering (SMBB) at its branch in Coahuila.