Heart health: Orange peel extract may help lower risk

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
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Scientists have found that orange peels may have cardiovascular benefits. Ryan Matthew Smith/Stocksy
  • Interactions between the body’s gut microbiome and overall health have been a focus of research for the last few years.
  • Past studies show that a healthy gut microbiome and certain foods are linked to better cardiovascular health.
  • Researchers from the University of Florida have found that an extract made from orange peels may help improve heart health in male mice.

Over the last few years with much research focusing on the interactions between the body’s gut microbiome and overall health, the adage “you are what you eat” certainly rings true.

In regards to heart health, previous research links a healthy gut microbiome to cholesterol metabolism which could play a role in heart disease.

Past studies also correlate consuming certain foods, including blueberries, legumes, chia seeds (in rats), and leafy greens with improved cardiovascular health.

Now, a new study recently published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has found an extract made from orange peels may help improve cardiovascular Health.

Scientists developed and tested two types of orange peel extracts — one with polar fraction and the other with non-polar fraction.

“If you imagine your salad dressing, anything in the water or vinegar part are the polar fraction; anything in the oil away from water is the non-polar fraction,” Wang explained. “The solvents we used were not exactly like water and oil, but they possess similar polarity.”

During the study, researchers found the non-polar fraction orange peel extract was able to stop the production of TMAO in 10 male mice.

Scientists also identified a compound called feruloylputrescine in the polar fraction orange peel extract that significantly inhibited the enzyme responsible for producing trimethylamine (TMA), which is involved in the production of TMAO.

“We knew the non-polar fraction might work from previous studies, but we didn’t know the polar fraction could work, because no relevant reports previously,” Wang said.

Do other citrus foods have the same effect?

“We are working on testing if these health benefit compounds in orange peel could be identified in citrus fruits and juice as well as how to increase these good compounds in our citrus products.”
— Yu Wang, PhD

After reviewing this research, Cheng-Han Chen, MD, a board-certified interventional cardiologist and medical director of the Structural Heart Program at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, CA told MNT this study highlights how much more there is to understand about how our gut microbiome processes foods to produce compounds and products that could have an effect on human health.

“We’re learning more and more about the significant interaction between the foods we eat and our inherent gut microbiome, and the microbiome is increasingly being understood as playing a major role in human health, including cardiovascular health,” Chen continued.

“There are significant opportunities to improve heart Health by understanding the interaction between the microbiome and food as this, number one, could lead to a better understanding on which foods could improve cardiovascular Health the most and, number two, could lead to advances in therapeutics based on these findings that could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease,” he said.

MNT also spoke with Monique Richard, MS, RDN, LDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Nutrition-In-Sight, who said this study also provides additional support for the plethora of benefits we have come to understand as a consequence of incorporating more fruits and vegetables into the diet.

“Citrus fruits are rich in antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamin C, (and) potassium, as well as other B vitamins such as folate but, as the study illustrates, the compounds specific to the peel, pulp, and fruit itself offer beneficial properties in gut health which may in turn support heart health,” Richard explained.

“Oranges and orange peel also provide fiber which is a prebiotic — a food source for the beneficial bacteria in our gut. As these microbes interact and produce metabolites it nurtures the rest of the body’s systems with beneficial outcomes but also aids in the removal of less than beneficial components and waste such as TMAO, cholesterol, and pathogens.”
— Monique Richard, MS, RDN, LDN

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