Compound found in tangerines may help protect against type 2 diabetes

Individuals who have a family history of type 2 diabetes or those with pre-diabetes may consider eating more tangerines. A recent study published in the journal Diabetes indicates that a flavonoid found in these fruits may protect against type 2 diabetes, along with obesity and metabolic syndrome.

The researchers explained that people who have several coexisting risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including excess abdominal fat and insulin resistance, are classified as having metabolic syndrome.

The tangerine compound, called nobiletin, was shown to have a protective effect against symptoms of metabolic syndrome among mice that were fed high-fat Western diets. The study's results also showed that nobiletin consumption improved the animals' insulin sensitivity. As the investigators predicted, laboratory rodents that were not given the flavonoid in addition to an unhealthy diet became obese and showed signs of elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as high blood levels of insulin and glucose.

Scientists said that the compound stimulated the expression of fat-burning genes and inhibited the function of those that are involved in lipid manufacturing and storage.

"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," said lead researcher Murray Huff.

He noted that similar compounds have been found in other fruits, such as naringenin in grapefruits, although the recent study results indicate that nobiletin is nearly 10 times more effective for reducing the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can promote a balanced diet, which may be key for obesity and diabetes prevention. People who want to incorporate more tangerines into their diabetic diet may consider purchasing the fruits at local farmers markets or grocery stores that offer organic produce.