Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Tangerine a Day Keeps Obesity at Bay

Apples and many brightly coloured antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies tend to steal the show when we talk about keeping the doctor away and preventing diseases. However, a new study shows that another common grocery store fruit might possess some extraordinary powers that have until now been largely overlooked.

It turns out that the little cousin of our breakfast staple, the orange, might be better for us than we had previously imagined. Thanks to a new study from the University of Western Ontario, researchers now believe that a substance found in tangerines may help ward of obesity, type 2 diabetes and even offered long-term protection against heart disease.

In the studies using lab mice, both groups were given free access to plenty of food representing a "Western Diet" loaded with fats and sugars, while only one group was treated with nobiletin, an antioxidant found in high concentrations in tangerines. The group treated with nobiletin remained healthy, while the other group became obese, showing elevated cholesterol and insulin levels and a fatty liver -symptoms that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

One of the researchers, Murray Huff, was also responsible for highlighting the health benefits of narinigen, a compound found in grapefruits that was also suggested to prevent obesity. Nobiletin, however, is supposed to be 10 times as effective as narinigen, offering long-term protection against vascular plaque buildup.

While the results of this study are indeed fascinating, fact that this study was done on mice, and that the 'magic ingredient' was isolated on it's own and not consumed within the context of the fruit itself is troublesome. We can't draw direct conclusions or implications with regards to the effect of nobiletin (or eating more tangerines) on humans, but it wouldn't hurt if people ate a little bit more fruit each day, would it? Especially considering a majority of Canadians don't get enough fruits or vegetables each day, and plenty of us are overweight or obese, studies like these may be helpful in reinforcing the value of adding a bit more colour to our diets each day.