Naringenin is a type of chemical compound that is primarily found in citrus fruits and juices like oranges and grapefruit. Naringenin and its chemical cousin apigenin are types of flavonoids that produce a bitter-like taste in fruit. While these compounds may be bitter in taste, they’re anything but bitter in the body and have been found to have a host of beneficial biological effects.
The Benefits Of Naringenin:
Naringenin (naringin is converted into naringenin when digested) has been proposed to have a TON of benefits in the body.
- May help to lower blood pressure †
- Could protect against heart damage †
- May help improve body composition †
- Can help improve lipid status including decreased cholesterol levels and triglycerides †
- May help protect against cancer †
- Seems to help reduce serum (in the blood) insulin levels along with fasted glucose levels †
- May protect against atherosclerosis †
- Possibly helps protect against liver damage †
- May reduce inflammation †
- May help detoxification of certain heavy metals †
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How Naringenin Functions:
Naringenin’s primary function in the body is most plausibly as an antioxidant or free radical scavenger. As a result, naringenin helps to mitigate excess oxidative stress (inflammation) by stopping free radical reactions. It also appears to reduce lipid peroxidation and increase the production of the antioxidant defense system. This includes molecules like superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase. This is likely why naringenin has so many potent benefits in the body due to these chemical qualities.
Naringenin’s ability to fight excess oxidative stress/inflammation is believed to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol which is known to contribute to the formation of arterial plaque. Arterial plaque is known to play a role in the development of atherosclerosis and can play a role in high blood pressure. Additionally, these same qualities are responsible for naringenin’s heart and liver protective effects by mitigating protecting these cells from the effects of excess oxidative stress and preventing fibrosis of these tissues. In fact, an inverse correlation has been found between high flavonoid consumption, like naringenin, and cardiovascular risk in multiple studies.
Naringenin also seems to have an effect on glucose and insulin in the body. This is especially true when combined with Vitamin C as it would naturally be found in fruits. This may be as a result of decreasing systemic (whole-body) inflammation from a reduction of the inflammatory cytokines in the bloodstream which can induce insulin resistance and damage of the B-cells (insulin secreting cells of the pancreas). This may also be from increasing the metabolic rate of the individual through activating of the AMPK protein which regulates energy production or homeostasis. By increasing the activation of AMPK it would increase the cells uptake of glucose. This helps to restore insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin levels in the blood. Lastly, it seems like naringenin may also increase the activity of the Glut4 receptor which is a protein that can absorb glucose without needing insulin to do so. By increasing the activity of this receptor the amount of glucose in the blood would be lowered which also helps to lower insulin in the blood, increasing sensitivity. These effects also contribute to an increase in metabolic efficiency meaning more calories burned which likely is responsible for naringenin’s effects on improving body composition in a number of rat studies.
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How To Supplement With Naringenin?:
Naringenin supplementation has risen in popularity recently and may be an effective way to take advantage of its many potential benefits. BUT I’d argue that naringenin in isolation is probably not nearly as beneficial as in it’s whole food form. Normally naringenin is found packed together with apigenin, another potent chemical compound, Vitamin C, sucrose and a number of other vitamins and minerals. Naringenin seems to be effective on its own, but in conjunction with these potent compounds it's effects are likely much more potent.
For these reasons, I recommend consuming naringenin from whole food sources like citrus fruits and juices including:
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