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Genetic Study Puts Antioxidants Under the Microscope

Posted: July 22, 2009

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The orange juice study was done by a different team of researchers at the same institute, in human volunteers. Twenty-four men who were healthy overall but who had cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity took part. In three one-month periods, the men drank one of three drinks a day: 500 milliliters of orange juice (containing 292 milligrams of hesperidin), 500 milliliters of an energy drink, or 500 milliliters of the same drink enriched with 292 milligrams of hesperidin.

The study found a trend toward improved blood pressure and better function of the endothelium, the delicate inner lining of blood vessels, in the men who consumed hesperidin, either in orange juice or as a supplement. Genetic studies found that hesperidin affected activity of 1,820 genes from white blood cells.

Neither experiment is a reason to take a supplement of either curcumin or hesperidin, Milenkovic said. "Some of these at high doses can be bad," he said of supplements in general. "They can be beneficial for the health if used in nutritional doses."

Nutritional supplements are always attractive to a lot of people, said Dr. Thomas L. Force, professor of medicine at Thomas Jefferson University, and a spokesman for the American Heart Association. "They are of significant interest to the lay public, given the fascination with this approach to the prevention of disease," said Force, who is also clinical director of the university's Center for Translational Medicine. "People have an aversion to taking medicines."

But neither of the two studies adds definitive information about the preventive value of the nutrients, Force said. "They are add-ons to studies that have shown the possible value of antioxidants," he said. "Most of the literature is not at a very mechanistic level or picks out one specific protein that is regulated. These studies do provide a more global approach to how these compounds may function to do what they are purported to do."