Oranges, limes, and lemons contain three antioxidants that a recent study suggests can help protect against oxidative damage, reduce liver damage, and help manage blood sugar levels and blood lipid levels, particularly if you are obese. So if you have five minutes to spare and are looking for something healthy to snack on, grab a citrus fruit!
Obesity puts you at an increased risk for oxidative damage because a high-fat diet leads to more fat accumulating in fat cells, which in turn generates an extreme amount of reactive oxygen species that damage cells and increase the risk for obesity-related diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease.
Now, antioxidants can help fight reactive oxygen species and the oxidative damage they inflict, but individuals who are obese have an excessive amount of these free radicals and need extra antioxidant support. Three flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that includes anthocyanidins, flavanols, flavones, flavanones, and isoflavones, may help reduce one’s risk of ischemic stroke, regulate blood pressure, and promote heart health.
The flavanones hesperidin, eriocitrin, and eriodictyol are highly concentrated in citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and limes, and have been linked to reductions in free radical damage in in vitro and animal studies. Brazilian researchers separated mice into different groups to test the effects of these antioxidants on oxidative stress. They fed mice either:
- A standard diet
- A high-fat diet
- A high-fat diet with hesperidin
- A high-fat diet with eriocitrin
- A high-fat diet with eriodictyol
The mice fed a high-fat diet without antioxidant support showed elevated levels of cell-damage markers called thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) by 80% in the blood and 57% in the liver. The mice on the high-fat, flavanones-supported diet showed a decrease in TBARS in the liver by 50%, 57%, and 64% respectively, and a decrease in TBARS in the blood by 48% for those given eriocitrin, and 47% for those given eriodictyol. Hesperidin and eriodictyol also appeared to lower fat accumulation and damage in the liver.
“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,” says Paula S. Ferreira, a graduate student with the research team at Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP) in Brazil.