Diabetes Self-Management Blog

Preliminary research in animals indicates that a substance found in tangerines can help prevent obesity and protect against both Type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), the cardiovascular condition responsible for most heart attacks and strokes. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for people with Type 2 diabetes.

Using mice specially bred to develop the metabolic syndrome (a cluster of factors that raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes), researchers at the University of Western Ontario studied the effects of a flavonoid in tangerines known as nobiletin. One group of mice was fed a western-style diet high in fats and simple sugars. Another group was fed the same diet but with nobiletin added.

The mice in the group that did not receive the flavonoid developed all the signs of metabolic syndrome, including raised cholesterol and triglycerides, elevated levels of insulin and glucose in the blood, and a fatty liver. Mice that were given the nobiletin, on the other hand, did not experience elevations in triglycerides, cholesterol, insulin, or glucose, and did not gain excess weight. They also became more sensitive to insulin and additionally did not develop a fatty liver. It was discovered that nobiletin stimulates genes that are involved in burning fat and inhibits genes involved in creating fat.

Murray Huff, PhD, one of the study’s authors, noted that “The nobiletin-treated mice were basically protected from obesity. And in longer-term studies, nobiletin also protected these animals from atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in arteries, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. This study really paves the way for future studies to see if this is a suitable treatment for metabolic syndrome and related conditions in people.”

Huff’s research has concentrated on how natural molecules can be used in medicine. Two years ago, his team discovered a substance in grapefruits known as naringenin that also protects against obesity and other factors of the metabolic syndrome. However, according to Huff, nobiletin is ten times as powerful, in addition to offering protection against atherosclerosis.

To learn more, read the article “Substance in Tangerines Fights Obesity and Protects Against Heart Disease, Research Suggests,” or see the study’s abstract in the journal Diabetes.


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Diane Fennell
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