Health In Focus
  • Obesity increases the risk of death from chronic diseases
  • Oranges and other citrus fruits have beneficial effect on obese people
  • Citrus fruits are rich in essential vitamins and antioxidants
  • Flavanones in citrus fruits prevent or delay chronic diseases caused by obesity in humans

Citrus fruits such as oranges, sweet lime, grapefruit and lemon are rich in vitamins and antioxidants that are essential for the body. A new study claims that citrus fruits can also help prevent harmful effects of obesity-related diseases in mice fed a high-fat Western diet.

Can Citrus Fruits Protect You from Harmful Effects of Obesity?
Can Citrus Fruits Protect You from Harmful Effects of Obesity?

Obesity is defined as the accumulation of excess body fat than normal. An individual with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher is considered as obese. Obesity is caused due to an energy imbalance between the consumed and expended calories. A high-fat diet, physical inactivity due to sedentary lifestyle and urbanization are some of the contributing factors to obesity.

The global prevalence of obesity more than doubled between the years 1980 and 2014, the World Health Organization has reported. Obesity is the leading cause of mortality, morbidity, disability and healthcare costs in the United States. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of the US adult population is obese. Obesity increases the risk of chronic diseases due to oxidative stress and inflammation. Fat cells produce excessive reactive oxygen species that damage the cells in a process called as oxidative stress. The body fights the molecules with antioxidants. But, obese individuals have enlarged fat cells that lead to higher levels of reactive oxygen species that overwhelm the body's ability to counteract them.

Consequences of Obesity

Obesity increases the risk of

  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Stroke
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
Reducing about five to ten percent of the body weight can delay or prevent the risk of developing chronic diseases.

Citrus Fruits can Prevent Obesity-Related Diseases

Citrus fruits are delicious and refreshing owing to its sweet and tangy taste. Citrus fruits contain flavanones that exhibit anticancer properties. Flavanones improve blood flow through coronary arteries and prevent the formation of clots. Citrus fruits contain high amounts of Vitamin C, folate, and thiamine.

A team of researchers from the Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP) in Brazil studied the effect of citrus flavanones on mice with no genetic modifications. An experimental study included 50 mice. The researchers treated the mice with flavanones found in oranges, limes, and lemons. The researchers focused on the flavanones - hesperidin, eriocitrin and eriodictyol. Mice were divided into groups and fed a standard diet, a high-fat diet, high-fat diet plus hesperidin, a high-fat diet plus eriocitrin or a high-fat diet plus eriodictyol.

The results of the study showed that mice fed a high-fat diet without flavanones increased the levels of cell damage markers called thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) by 80% in the blood and 57% in the liver compared to mice on a standard diet.

The TBARS levels in the liver decreased in mice on a diet that included hesperidin, eriocitrin and eriodictyol by 50%, 57% and 60% respectively, compared with mice fed a high-fat diet but not given flavanones. The TBARS levels in blood reduced in mice on a diet that included Eriocitrin and eriodictyol by 48% and 47% respectively. The researchers also found that mice treated with hesperidin and eriodictyol had reduced fat accumulation and damage in the liver.

Thais B. Cesar, Ph.D., who led the research team, said, "Our studies did not show any weight loss due to the citrus flavanones. However, 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," said Paula S. Ferreira, a graduate student with the research team.

"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," Ferreira added.

The team hopes to conduct further research on how best to administer these flavanones, whether in the form of citrus juice, fruit or a pill. The team also plans to conduct the study involving humans. The study was presented at the 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Tips to Shed Extra Kilos

1. Make healthier food choices
2. Limit consumption of fats and sugars
3. Increase the intake of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts
4. Engage in regular physical activities for at least a minimum of 3 days a week
5. Walk or cycle to work
6. Always take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator

Source: Medindia

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