Researchers at the University of Western Ontario have found that a substance in tangerines prevents obesity, offers protection against type 2 diabetes, and even atherosclerosis, the underlying disease responsible for most heart attacks and strokes.
Murray Huff, a vascular biology scientist at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, along with Erin Mulvihill, studied the effects of a flavonoid in tangerines called Nobiletin.
In a model of metabolic syndrome developed by the Huff laboratory at the Robarts Research Institute, mice were fed a "western" diet high in fats and simple sugars. One group became obese and showed all the signs associated with metabolic syndrome: elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood levels of insulin and glucose, and a fatty liver. These metabolic abnormalities greatly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
"The Nobiletin-treated mice were basically protected from obesity," said Huff, the Director of the Vascular Biology Research Group at Robarts.
"And in longer-term studies, Nobiletin also protected these animals from atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in arteries, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. This study really paves the way for future studies to see if this is a suitable treatment for metabolic syndrome and related conditions in people," added Huff.
The research has been published in the journal Diabetes.