Citrus fruit and health
Published: November 09, 2018
More than 250 years ago in an attempt to find a cure for scurvy, a condition which can cause death and which was prevalent among sailors on long voyages, British doctor James Lind performed an experiment with 12 scurvy affected sailors.
The sailors were divided into pairs and each pair received one of six “supplements”: cider, vinegar, sulfuric acid, seawater, oranges and lemons, or a spice infused laxative.
The pair of sailors who received the orange and lemon supplement recovered quickly while the remaining 10 sailors did not.
Some 50 years later it became mandatory for sailors on long voyages to be provided with a daily ration of lime juice.
The exact component in limes, or other citrus fruits, which prevents scurvy was not identified for more than 200 years until it was isolated and named ascorbic acid.
This compound has a similar structure to glucose.
Ascorbic acid, or vitamin C as it is now more commonly called, has been synthesised and produced as supplements ever since.
Clearly incorporating citrus fruits into your diet can help prevent vitamin C deficiency, and because they contain an array of health promoting nutrients these fruits may provide you with other health benefits.
However, in some instances there is a downside to consuming certain citrus fruits such as grapefruit.
Consumption of grapefruit has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women.
Additionally, observations made over the past 20 years suggest that a particular component present in grapefruit and some other citrus fruits may adversely interact with an array of medications necessarily prescribed to treat potentially life shortening conditions.
Furthermore, extracts of various citrus fruits are available as supplements which make various health and weight loss claims, even though the claims are not supported by reliable research, and like the whole fruits may promote adverse health effects.
What are citrus fruits?
The genus Citrus is the common name given to flowering plants belonging to the Rutaceae (rue) family. Citrus plants are evergreen shrubs or small trees which produce small, fragrant white flowers usually with 5 petals and many stamens.
The fruits may be globular or elongated in form ranging from between 4-30 cm long and 4-20 cm in diameter.
The pericarp, the tough peel, is formed of three parts: the zest (outermost layer), the pith (middle layer), and the endocarp (inner most layer).
Citrus fruits are segmented and the space within each segment is known as a locule. It is the locule that is filled with the pulp or juice vesicles.
The fragrance of citrus fruits is produced partly by flavonoids and limonoids contained in the peel and juice which also contains large amounts of citric acid that is responsible for the sharp flavour of citric fruits.
Oranges, lemons, grapefruit and limes are probably the most well-known citrus fruits, but the citrus family is made up of many species.
Today, the majority of domesticated citrus fruits are hybrids such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes and tangerines, with only the citron, pomelo and mandarin thought to be original.
Citrus fruits are mostly identified with a high vitamin C content, but these fruits are also a good source...Follow the link to the full article to learn more.
Whitney, E. & Rady Rolfes, S. (2005). Understanding Nutrition. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth
Centre for Science in the Public Interest. Nutrition Action Health Letter (October 2007, March 2011, March 2012)