Citrus fruits contain powerful antioxidants that can prevent cellular damage. [Photo: Bigstock]

Citrus fruits could help prevent obesity-related diseases

23 August, 2016

Natural Health News — Most of us know that oranges and other citrus fruits are good for us because they contain plenty of vitamins and other substances, such as antioxidants, that can support health.

Now a group of researchers reports that citrus fruits could have some very specific effects, such as helping to prevent harmful effects of obesity.

Being obese increases the risk of developing heart disease, liver disease and diabetes, most likely because of oxidative stress and inflammation.

When humans have an unhealthy lifestyle which includes consuming a very high-fat Western-style diet, they accumulate fat in their bodies. Fat cells produce excessive reactive oxygen species (free radicals), which can damage cells in a process called oxidative stress. The body can usually fight off the molecules with antioxidants. But obese patients have very enlarged fat cells, which can lead to even higher levels of reactive oxygen species that overwhelm the body’s ability to counteract them.

What you need to know

» Citrus fruits are knwon to be high in vitamins and other nutrients such as antioxidants which can help fight cellular damage.

» Researchers in Brazil used an animal model to test a theory that the antioxidant flavanones in citrus fruit, such as herperidan, eriocitrin and eriodictyol, could reduce the high level of cellular damage due to free radicals that is common in obese individuals.

» They found that mice eating a typical Western-style high fat diet experienced significanly less cellular damage when supplemented with citrus fruit antioxidants.

Citrus fruits contain large amounts of antioxidants, a class of which are called flavanones. Previous studies linked citrus flavanones to lowering oxidative stress in vitro and in animal models. These researchers wanted to observe the effects of citrus flavanones for the first time on mice with no genetic modifications and that were fed a high-fat diet.

Supplemented diets

The study from Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP) in Brazil was part funded by by Citrosuco, an orange juice production company in Matão, Sao Paulo, Brazil. The researchers studied 50 mice, supplementing their diets with flavanones found in oranges, limes and lemons.

The flavanones they focused on were hesperidin, eriocitrin and eriodictyol. The animals were divided into groups and, for one month, received either a standard diet, a high-fat diet, a high-fat diet plus hesperidin, a high-fat diet plus eriocitrin or a high-fat diet plus eriodictyol.

The high-fat diet without the flavanones increased the levels of substances called thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) by 80% in the blood and 57% in the liver compared to mice on a standard diet. The presence of TBARS is an indication of cell damage.

Less liver damage

But in the animals receiving hesperidin, eriocitrin and eriodictyol, TBARS levels in the liver decreased by 50%, 57% and 64%, respectively, compared with mice fed a high-fat diet but not given flavanones.

Eriocitrin and eriodictyol also reduced TBARS levels in the blood by 48% and 47%, respectively. In addition, the animals that received hesperidin and eriodictyol had reduced fat accumulation and damage in the liver.

The study did not show did not show any weight loss due to the citrus flavanones but, says lead researcher Thais B. Cesar, Ph.D., “Even without helping the mice lose weight, they made them healthier with lower oxidative stress, less liver damage, lower blood lipids and lower blood glucose.”

“Our results indicate that in the future we can use citrus flavanones, a class of antioxidants, to prevent or delay chronic diseases caused by obesity in humans,” adds researcher Paula S. Ferreira.  “This study also suggests that consuming citrus fruits probably could have beneficial effects for people who are not obese, but have diets rich in fats, putting them at risk of developing cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and abdominal obesity.”

The resutls of the study were presented ahead of publicaiton at the recent 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).