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The Mediterranean Diet: Phytochemicals In Citrus

Updated on October 26, 2009

Citrus fruits have been acknowledged since the earliest times in antiquity to have a significant amount of health benefits. In the age of the first sail powered ocean crossings, sailors would often fall ill with scurvy due to the deficiency of vitamin C since they did not carry along with them any citrus fruits. Although vitamin C deficiency has long ceased to be a major health issue, a great number of individuals do not consume enough citrus fruits. That is a is a terrible factoid since citrus fruits are most certainly among the most nutritious, not to mention delicious, fruits available. Including more citrus fruit into your daily diet can have a significant beneficial effect on your overall health. Citrus fruits are certainly not limited to the standard oranges and grapefruits which everyone is familiar with. Most major supermarkets have a virtually infinite variety of citrus fruits featured in their produce departments, including mandarin oranges, tangerines, kumquats, and of course, lemons and limes.

The Italian word for lemon is limone. The Ancient Romans imported lemons, and the first citrus trees are thought to have been brought to Italy in the 1st century, possibly from Alexandria, Egypt. Southern Italy is where most of the lemons are grown, but lemons are also grown in the northern Lake Garda region which is a Mediterranean climate enclave in the midst of the foothills of the Alps. This is the northernmost citrus-growing region in the world with propagation of the lemon in the Lake area dating back to before 1500. The consumption of lemon has been clinically associated with lower rates of stomach cancer.

Some of the phytochemicals present in lemons and to some degree in most citrus fruits include:

Coumarins: Coumarins may help prevent cancer. They have been shown in test tubes to turn on an enzyme that can make potentially harmful compounds harmless. Coumarins have also been shown in animals to stop tumors from growing.

Limonene: Limonene is an isoprenoid, which is a general group of phytochemicals. There seems to be some clinical evidence that limonene may help prevent cancer, as it has been shown in vitro to prevent tumors from starting, especially in the stomach, lung and breast. It also has been shown to help an enzyme that neutralizes various cell situations that could possibly turn into cancer. Limonene may be especially helpful in preventing breast cancer. In rats, limonene caused the complete regression of the majority of advanced mammary cancer.

Nobiletin: Nobiletin is a flavonoid, which is another general group of phytochemicals. Nobiletin has been shown in a test tube to block tumor growth and to help an enzyme that can detoxify elements which could lead to cancer..

Rutin: Rutin is another flavonoid, which may help prevent heart disease. In a test tube, rutin has been shown to inhibit LDL oxidation. Excessive oxidized LDL has been related to heart disease.

Tangeretin: Tangeretin is also a flavonoid. In animals, tangeretin can inhibit tumors from growing.

Terpenoids: Terpenoids are another general group of phytochemicals that may help prevent cancer. There seems to be a limited amount of clinical evidence showing that terpenoids seem to prevent cancer in two different ways. First, they can work as antioxidants, so they decrease the chances of cancers due to oxidation from starting. They can also work in ways that decrease the chances of cancers due to oxidation from starting, if it has already started.

Continued In The Mediterranean Diet: Phytochemicals In Olive Oil

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      Gurpreet 4 years ago

      By the way another aetvrnatile to take a pic of your team is if you have a windows PC hit the Prt Sc key open a word doc or paint and press Ctrl+V which will paste an image of the screen shot you just took, save and send in an email. Hopeful someone may find this helpful. I don't want to be the only one who sends in a picture I need some competition after all haha

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      Wizz310 6 years ago

      Your points are oh so valid, especially in the context of the so-called Mediterranean diet. Sadly, in my part of the Med, Malta, people don't eat enough citrus even when it's hanging in their gardens and food for free! My neighbours give it away, see:

      Malta has a long and veritable association with citrus - it having been introduced here with the Arabs in the 8th century. Now though, it's not given its due, or used enough. A sad but true fact is the even the people in the Mediterranean region aren't appreciating their traditional diet's benefits.