Increasing your vitamin C intake isn't the only reason to eat citrus fruits -- these fruits also provide a number of beneficial compounds called bioflavonoids. While research is still in the preliminary stages, these compounds may help lower your risk for heart disease and cancer, protect your brain function as you age, and improve your circulation.
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The potential heart-healthy effects of citrus fruits aren't just due to the folate and vitamin C these fruits contain, although these are both beneficial in preventing heart disease. Citrus flavonoids helped lower both cholesterol and triglyceride levels in a study published in the "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry" in 2011. The flavonoids tangeretin and nobiletin had the greatest effect, but sinensetin, hesperetin and naringenin also had a small effect.
Cancer Treatment Potential
Although research is still in the preliminary stages, the citrus bioflavonoid tangeretin may be able to help with the treatment of drug-resistant cancer. A study published in the "Journal of Natural Products" in 2012 found that this flavonoid helped induce cell death in drug-resistant cancer cells and made them more sensitive to chemotherapy medications.
Brain Power Protection
Many citrus bioflavonoids, including hesperetin, can cross the blood-brain barrier, thus giving them the potential to be beneficial in protecting your brain function, according to an article published in the "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry" in 2012. A study using rats published in July 2010 in the "Journal of Medicinal Food" found that one citrus bioflavonoid, naringin, appears to help prevent a type of cell damage that leads to Alzheimer's disease, although more research is needed to see if this benefit occurs in people, as well as in rats.
Inflammation and Circulation Improvement
Promising research involving patients with metabolic syndrome points to a potential benefit of a citrus bioflavonoid called hesperidin. A study published in "The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism" in May 2011 found that patients given hesperidin had fewer markers of inflammation in their blood and improvements in endothelial function, or the functioning of the lining of their blood cells, and thus in circulation as well. These improvements may also lower heart disease risk.
- Food and Agriculture Organization: Nutritional and Health Benefits of Citrus Fruits
- The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism: Citrus Polyphenol Hesperidin Stimulates Production of Nitric Oxide in Endothelial Cells while Improving Endothelial Function and Reducing Inflammatory Markers in Patients with Metabolic Syndrome
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: Neuroprotective Effects of Citrus Flavonoids
- Journal of Medicinal Food: Protective Effect of Naringin, a Citrus Flavonoid, Against Colchicine-Induced Cognitive Dysfunction and Oxidative Damage in Rats
- Journal of Natural Products: Multidrug Resistance Reversal and Apoptosis Induction in Human Colon Cancer Cells by Some Flavonoids Present in Citrus Plants
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: Molecular Structures of Citrus Flavonoids Determine Their Effects on Lipid Metabolism in HepG2 Cells by Primarily Suppressing ApoB Secretion