January 18th, 2007
While they have long been recognized as a delicious fruit highly concentrated in vitamin C, new research demonstrates how mandarin oranges can help prevent cancer in those with liver disease. Learn why mandarin oranges should be added to the shopping list of anyone interested in protecting and support their liver.
by Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.
Oranges originated thousands of years ago in Asia, in the region from southern China to Indonesia. The mandarin orange is considered a native of south-eastern Asia and the Philippines. According to an interview with Philippines native Christine R. Altuna, “Mandarins are a part of my upbringing; they were always a comfort food when sick.” Oranges have extended to the western hemisphere to become an important part of a healthy diet. American culture’s claim that orange juice is the cornerstone to a healthy breakfast is proof.
Instrumental in preventing colds, vitamin C is vital for the proper functioning of a healthy immune system. While most people know that oranges are full of vitamin C, they may not be aware that just one orange supplies 116.2% of the daily value of vitamin C. A water-soluble antioxidant, vitamin C disarms free radicals to prevent cellular damage. Cancer is a potential result of free radical damage, particularly in areas of the body where cellular turnover is rapid, such as the digestive system. This is why the intake of vitamin C is associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer, in particular.
Free radicals also oxidize cholesterol. After being oxidized, cholesterol sticks to arterial walls, impeding blood flow and increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke. This build-up of fatty deposits is also a precursor to fatty liver disease. Since vitamin C helps neutralize free radicals, it can also prevent the oxidation of cholesterol that increases fatty deposits in the blood.
Orange Peel and Pulp
In addition to vitamin C, the revered orange is full of additional health-promoting substances. Previous research studies agree that the healing properties of oranges have been associated with a wide variety of phytonutrient compounds. These phytonutrients include:
· Citrus flavanones (types of flavonoids that include the molecules hesperetin and naringenin)
· Hydroxycinnamic acids
When these phytonutrients are evaluated in combination with its high vitamin C content, an orange’s antioxidant properties become even more significant. But it is yet another flavanone in oranges, the herperidin molecule, which has been singled out in phytonutrient research on oranges. Arguably the most important flavanone in oranges, herperidin has been shown in animal studies to lower both high blood pressure and cholesterol, and to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Most of this phytonutrient is found in the peel and inner white pulp of the orange, rather than its juicy pulp. It was previously believed that the majority of an orange’s health benefits were sapped when these compounds are removed by the processing of oranges into juice.
Beyond the Pulp and Rind
Two new studies from Japan have recently demonstrated that a specific orange’s rewards go well beyond its solid parts. In one of these studies, the juice from the mandarin orange demonstrated its most powerful result: keeping Hepatitis-C infected patients from developing liver cancer.
The orange has unusually high levels of an antioxidant known as beta-cryptoxanthin. When beta-cryptoxanthin is painted on mice with skin cancer, it reduced tumors significantly and, when fed to rats with colon cancer, reduced the development of tumors. In a year-long study, 30 Hepatitis C patients who drank 190 milliliters of mandarin orange juice fortified with extra beta-cryptoxanthin failed to develop liver cancer. These findings are significant when compared with 8.9 percent of 45 Hepatitis C patients who did not drink the juice and developed liver cancer. “This is very cheap, and it seems to work,” says Hoyoku Nishino of Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, who led the research that is slated to continue for four more years.
A dated study published in the September 2003 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention reviewed dietary and lifestyle data collected from 63,257 adults in Shanghai, China. Participants were followed for 8 years, during which time 482 cases of lung cancer were diagnosed. Those eating the most cryptoxanthin-rich foods showed a 27% reduction in lung cancer risk. Some other foods that are high in crytpoxanthin include pumpkin, corn, papaya, red bell peppers, tangerines and peaches.
In a recent epidemiological study by scientists at the National Institute of Fruit Tree Science in Japan, scientists surveyed 1,073 people in a Japanese town noted for its high consumption of mandarin oranges. The researchers found certain chemical markers in the subjects’ blood that are associated with a lower risk of several health problems, including liver disease, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and insulin resistance (a condition associated with diabetes).
The reasons for eating oranges and drinking their juice have escalated to new heights. While finding mandarins or their juice might be challenging outside of the Asian market, related citrus varieties such as oranges or tangerines demonstrate similar health benefits. With new research focusing on the health benefits of oranges, people with liver concerns who are hopeful of warding off liver cancer have every reason to make these delicious fruits a dietary staple.
www.emaxhealth.com, Make Orange Juice Part of Your Daily Routine, emaxhealth.com, 2005.
www.rxpg.com, Mandarin oranges decrease liver cancer risk, atherosclerosis, American Chemical Society, September 11, 2006.
www.sciam.com, Breakfast Foods Deliver Buffet of Health Benefits, Scientific American, Inc., September 11, 2006.
www.whfoods.com, The World’s Healthiest Foods, The George Mateljan Foundation, 2006.
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