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Orange Peels Improve Heart Health, Says Study

Orange peels are often discarded and treated as waste, but a new study has found that orange peel benefits may include improved heart health.

Oranges are known to offer plenty of nutritional benefits — including being chock-full of vitamin C and vitamin B6 — but new research has found that their peels may also be beneficial, particularly for cardiovascular health.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Florida and published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that orange peel extract can reduce the presence of an organic compound in the gut that is known to predict cardiovascular disease.

Specifically, during digestion, gut bacteria can feed on certain nutrients from the citrus fruit and produce a chemical called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO).

Research has demonstrated an association between the level of TMAO concentration in the gut and the development of various diseases, including cardiovascular diseases and cardiorenal disorders such as atherosclerosis, hypertension, ischemic stroke, atrial fibrillation, heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, and chronic kidney disease.

To test whether orange peel extract — which is full of phytochemicals that offer many health benefits — may be able to reduce the production of TMAO and trimethylamine (TMA) in the gut, researchers used polar and non-polar solvents to get two types of extracts from the peel: a polar fraction and a non-polar fraction.

Researchers found that the orange peel non-polar fraction extract was able to prevent the production of harmful chemicals, and they found that a compound called feruloylputrescine in the orange peel polar fraction extract was able to inhibit the enzyme responsible for TMA production.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, people aged 45 and over, and most race and Hispanic-origin groups — demonstrating the need for any and all solutions that may reduce the burden of this disease.

Plus, according to the study, 5 million tons of orange peels are produced each year in orange juice production nationwide, and about half of the peels serve as cattle food while the rest go to waste.

Is it safe to eat orange peels?

Natural orange peel extracts are considered safe for human consumption by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so this new research could eventually lead to an increase in their use by humans and a decrease in their waste.

“These findings suggest that orange peels, often discarded as waste in the citrus industry, can be repurposed into valuable health-promoting ingredients, such as diet supplements or food ingredients,” said Yu Wang, a study author and faculty member at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center, in news release. “Our research paves the way for developing functional foods enriched with these bioactive compounds, providing new therapeutic strategies for heart health.”

Folks can consume peels directly by biting into the skin or cutting them into strips and putting them in a smoothie or salad. For those looking to avoid the tough texture, experiment with candied orange peels or marmalade for essential vitamins and protective effects.

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