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Here in UK, papaya is an exotic fruit rather than a weekly shop staple that we are able to pick up in every supermarket. But perhaps we are missing a trick if we do not include it as part of our varied diet.

Historically, the flesh, skin, seeds, and stem of this exotic fruit have been used in traditional medicine for many years and for many different ailments and health conditions.

Papaya was reputedly called the ‘fruit of the angels’ by Christopher Columbus, and you may know it also as a pawpaw. It is a large melon-like fruit which can be eaten raw or cooked and often has a rich golden flesh with black seeds.

Here is an overview of the researched benefits to health of eating papaya.

1. Papaya is used as a digestive aid

Papaya is a rich source of the protein-digesting enzymes papain and chymopapain. Papain is considered to be so powerful that it can digest 200 times its own weight in protein; it also retains its activity over a wide pH range, meaning it is active and stable in different environments of the stomach.

Its powerful protein-digesting activity makes papaya useful as an effective natural digestive support1.  It also has a regulative effect on the digestive system – supporting natural peristalsis and facilitating regular bowel movements. Symptoms of IBS such as gas, bloating, acid reflux, loose stools or a tendency towards constipation may all benefit from the addition of papaya into a daily regime.2

2. Papaya nutrients may slow down skin-ageing

Lycopene is an important antioxidant known for its particular benefit to the skin. It is one of a group of nutrients called carotenoids, which are known for their ability to protect the skin from the sun & scores high on the antioxidant scale and dietary carotenoids such as lycopene, may contribute to life-long protection against harmful UV radiation.3

Studies tell us that papaya actually provides more bioavailable carotenoids (meaning in a form our body can use and absorb) than from tomatoes and carrots 4 , making them one of the richest sources of lycopene – the important UV protecting nutrient.5

3. Papaya may reduce inflammation

It has been found that papaya consumption specifically, and therefore its unique combination of nutrients and plant chemicals, may exert an anti-inflammatory effect by supporting immune health.6 The benefits to eating more plant foods are becoming more apparent every day so it is great to see more research in the powerful effect fruits can exhibit on inflammation.

One study showed the anti-inflammatory effect post-surgery in women through eating just 6 portions of fruit and vegetables per day, in the month following the surgery7 . From what we are learning about papaya and therefore considering this research and others8 , papaya would be a prudent choice for anyone recovering from illness or surgery.

4. Papaya supports cardiovascular health

Bioactive compounds found in fruit, including papaya, and vegetables known as phytochemicals or phytonutrients have been proven to have protective effects against cardiovascular disease.9,10

Therefore, as we can clearly see from the abundant evidence, papaya could be a really healthy addition to our diet or for those that require a therapeutic dose a specially prepared pureed papaya extract may deliver added benefits.

1. Claudia R. da Silva, Marcia B. N. Oliveira, Ellen S. Motta, Gabriella S. de Almeida, Leandro L. Varanda, Marcelo de Pádula, Alvaro C. Leitão, Adriano Caldeira-de-Araújo, "Genotoxic and Cytotoxic Safety Evaluation of Papain (Carica papaya L.) Using In Vitro Assays", BioMed Research International, vol. 2010, Article ID 197898, 8 pages, 2010. https://doi.org/10.1155/2010/197898.
2. Muss C, Mosgoeller W, Endler T. Papaya preparation (Caricol®) in digestive disorders. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2013;34(1):38-46. PMID: 23524622.
3. Stahl W, Heinrich U, Aust O, Tronnier H, Sies H. Lycopene-rich products and dietary photoprotection. Photochem Photobiol Sci. 2006 Feb;5(2):238-42. doi: 10.1039/b505312a. Epub 2005 Aug 12. PMID: 16465309.
4. Schweiggert RM, Kopec RE, Villalobos-Gutierrez MG, Högel J, Quesada S, Esquivel P, Schwartz SJ, Carle R. Carotenoids are more bioavailable from papaya than from tomato and carrot in humans: a randomised cross-over study. Br J Nutr. 2014 Feb;111(3):490-8. doi: 10.1017/S0007114513002596. Epub 2013 Aug 12. PMID: 23931131; PMCID: PMC4091614.
5. Increasing vegetable and fruit intake: randomized intervention and monitoring in an at-risk population. Smith-Warner SA, Elmer PJ, Tharp TM, Fosdick L, Randall B, Gross M, Wood J, Potter JD. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2000 Mar; 9(3):307-17.
6. Abdullah M, Chai PS, Loh CY, Chong MY, Quay HW, Vidyadaran S, Seman Z, Kandiah M, Seow HF. Carica papaya increases regulatory T cells and reduces IFN-γ+ CD4+ T cells in healthy human subjects. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2011 May;55(5):803-6. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201100087. Epub 2011 Mar 24. PMID: 21520494.
7. Lima RL, Costa MJ, Filizola RG, Asciutti LS, Leite RF, Ferreira AS, Faintuch J. Consumption of fruits and vegetables and C-reactive protein in women undergoing cosmetic surgery. Nutr Hosp. 2010 Sep-Oct;25(5):763-7. PMID: 21336433.
8. Watzl B, Kulling SE, Möseneder J, Barth SW, Bub A. A 4-wk intervention with high intake of carotenoid-rich vegetables and fruit reduces plasma C-reactive protein in healthy, nonsmoking men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Nov;82(5):1052-8. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/82.5.1052. PMID: 16280438.
9. Kris-Etherton PM, Hecker KD, Bonanome A, Coval SM, Binkoski AE, Hilpert KF, Griel AE, Etherton TD. Bioactive compounds in foods: their role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Am J Med. 2002 Dec 30;113 Suppl 9B:71S-88S. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9343(01)00995-0. PMID: 12566142.
10. Riccioni G, Speranza L, Pesce M, Cusenza S, D'Orazio N, Glade MJ. Novel phytonutrient contributors to antioxidant protection against cardiovascular disease. Nutrition. 2012 Jun;28(6):605-10. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2011.11.028. Epub 2012 Apr 4. PMID: 22480801.

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