In a study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, University of Buffalo endocrinologists found that drinking orange juice, or eating any food high in flavonoids, along with a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal, may help neutralize the inflammatory stress the unhealthy food generates.
Flavonoids are compounds found in fruits, vegetables, and certain beverages (like tea, coffee, wine, and fruit drinks) that have many positive effects on health. For one, they are antioxidants that can help protect cells against the damaging effects of “free radicals,” which are produced from oxygen in the body. Some are normal, but when they build up in excess of the amount of antioxidants that help clear them out, they can lead to cellular damage. This in turn can lead to diseases such as cancer, premature aging, atherosclerosis, inflammation, and neurodegenerative diseases.
The study involved only three groups of 10 normal-weight healthy men and women (smaller studies should be carefully critiqued before applying the knowledge to the greater population). All three groups ate a typical fast-food, 900-calorie breakfast of one egg muffin sandwich, one sausage muffin sandwich and a serving of hashbrowns. One of the groups was given orange juice, the second given an equal caloric amount of glucose drink, and the third given just water to drink.
Researchers collected blood samples to measure inflammatory mediators. Both of the groups drinking glucose and water had an average of 62-63% increase in oxygen free radicals, while the group drinking orange juice only showed a 47% increase. The orange juice also was shown to increase SOCS-3, an important mediator of insulin resistance which contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes.
Orange juice contains a compound called naringenin, one of the most abundant citrus bioflavonoids. One glass contains about 30 milligrams of naringenin, which may particularly help inhibit the growth of cancer cells. In a 2009 study published in the journal Diabetes, naringenin in grapefruit juice was also found to prevent obesity and block insulin resistance in mice.
Another flavonoid in orange juice is called hesperidin. It is also found in lemons and lemon juice. The peel and the membranous parts contain the highest concentration, so orange juice that contains pulp is richer in these flavonoids.
The “moral” of the story: High fat, high carb, high calorie diets can lead to inflammation which can ultimately result in a greater risk of atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes, etc. Balancing those foods with healthier foods, such as citrus fruits and 100% fruit juices, may help reduce the amount of inflammation, but it will not completely eliminate it.