By The Independent Team
Juicy and sweet and renowned for its concentration of vitamin C, oranges make the perfect snack and add a special tang to many recipes; it is no wonder that they are one of the most popular fruits in the world. Oranges are generally available from winter through summer with seasonal variations depending on the variety.
Consuming vitamin C supplements does not provide the same protective benefits as drinking a glass of orange juice, shows research by Italian researchers in the Division of Human Nutrition at the University of Milan, Italy (Guarnieri S, Riso P, et al., British Journal of Nutrition).
Seven healthy test subjects were given each of three drinks, two weeks apart: blood-orange juice containing 150 milligrams of vitamin C, fortified water containing 150 milligrams of vitamin C, and a sugar and water solution containing no vitamin C. Blood samples were collected immediately before the drink was consumed, then every hour for 8 hours, and finally 24 hours after consumption of each drink.
Blood samples were exposed to hydrogen peroxide, and free radical damage to DNA was evaluated at 3 and 24 hours. Only when orange juice was consumed was any protective effect seen. After drinking orange juice, DNA damage was 18% less after 3 hours, and 16% less after 24 hours. No protection against DNA damage was seen after consumption of the vitamin C fortified drink or the sugar drink.
While another study, which looked at much larger quantities of vitamin C, did show a protective effect from the vitamin alone, this research indicates that not only is the protection afforded by fruit more complex, but smaller amounts of nutrients like vitamin C are all that are needed for benefit.
Said lead researcher, Serena Guarnieri, “It appears that vitamin C is not the only chemical responsible for antioxidant protection.” In oranges, vitamin C is part of a matrix involving many beneficial phytochemicals (for example, cyanidin-3-glucoside, flavanones and carotenoids).”But how they are interacting is still anyone’s guess,” she added. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait until scientists figure this out to receive oranges’ DNA-protective benefits.
Practical Tip: For the best DNA protection, skip the vitamin C—fortified bottled drinks and enjoy a glass of real (preferably organic as organic foods have been shown to contain higher amounts of phytonutrients), freshly squeezed orange juice—or simply eat an orange!
Owing to the multitude of vitamin C’s health benefits, it is not surprising that research has shown that consumption of vegetables and fruits high in this nutrient is associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes including heart disease, stroke and cancer.