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Consuming Citrus Fruits Could Help Prevent Harmful Effects of Obesity

Aug 22, 2016 04:00 AM EDT

A new study from Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP) in Brazil revealed that consuming oranges and other citrus fruits could delay or prevent negative effects of obesity in mouse models given a Western-style, high-fat diet.

The study, to be presented at the 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), suggests that a class of antioxidants found in citrus fruits, called flavanones, could lower oxidative stress, lessen liver damage, lower blood lipids and decrease blood glucose.

Obesity could cause fat cells to be enlarged. These enlarged fat cells produce high levels of reactive oxygen species, which could damage the cells in a process called oxidative stress.

For the study, the researchers treated 50 mice with three kinds of flavanones-hesperidin, eriocitrin and eriodictyol-found in oranges, lemons and limes. The researchers divided the mice to groups, which are receiving standard diet, high-fat diet, high-fat diet with hesperidin, high-fat diet with eriocitrin and high-fat diet with eriodictyol.

The researchers discovered that the group of mice receiving a high-fat diet has 80 percent increase levels of cell-damage markers called thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) in the blood and 57 percent in the liver compared to mice on a standard diet.

On the other hand, hesperidin, eriocitrin and eriodictyol decreased the TBARS levels in the liver by 50 percent, 57 percent and 64 percent, respectively. Furthermore, eriocytrin and eriodictyol also reduced TBARS levels in the blood by 48 percent and 47 percent, respectively, while hesperidin and eriodictyol had reduced fat accumulation and damage in the liver.

According to a press release, all three kinds of flavanones used in the study did cause the mice to lose weight. However, the antioxidants in citrus fruits made them healthier with lower oxidative stress, less liver damage, lower blood lipids and lower blood glucose.

With their findings, the researchers are planning to determine the best way to administer flavanones, whether in citrus juice, by consuming the fruit or developing a pill with these antioxidants. They are also expecting their experiments to be conducted in human trials to determine if flavanones could have the same beneficial effect to humans.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 78.6 million of adults in the U.S. are obese. Obesity could cause or worsen some heath conditions, including heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer.

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