Co-investigators Drs. Kristi Crowe-White and Amy Ellis, assistant professors in the department of human nutrition and hospitality management at the University of Alabama (UA), are recipients of a Mentored Clinical and Population Research Award from the American Heart Association (AHA) to conduct their research “Bioactive Compounds in Watermelon Modulating Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Elders: The MOXIE Study,” under the mentorship of Dr. Julie Locher, professor in the departments of medicine and health care organization and policy and Associate Director for Enrichment of the Nutrition Obesity Research Center (NORC) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Dr. Crowe-White completed her Dietetic Internship in UAB’s department of nutrition sciences in 2010, and Dr. Ellis earned her doctorate in Nutrition Sciences at UAB in 2012.
Preparation for the AHA award — which seeks to “encourage early career investigators who have appropriate and supportive mentoring relationships to engage in high quality introductory and pilot clinical studies that will guide future strategies for reducing cardiovascular disease and stroke while fostering new research in clinical and translational science, and encouraging community- and population-based activities” — was supported by one of the UA Collaborative Research Awards, established to foster collaboration from multiple UA campuses.
The MOXIE Study is designed to ascertain whether consumption of watermelon juice improves blood vessel function, since the fruit contains antioxidants and amino acids with the potential to increase blood vessel flow by impacting the underlying causes of artery stiffness, such as oxidative stress. No previous studies have examined the influence of the whole food on blood vessel function. Drs. Crowe-White and Ellis predict that results will advance science by providing a better understanding of artery stiffness in response to a food-focused treatment. Such tailored food-first interventions are critical to reducing cardiovascular disease risk.