April 6/London/Daily Mail -- An apple a day is supposed to keep the doctor away, but now it seems the same is true for tangerines.

According to research, eating the fruit could protect against heart attacks, diabetes and stroke as well as staving off obesity. Nobiletin, a pigment found in tangerine peel, is 10 times more potent than a similar one derived from grapefruit.

Researchers from the University of Western Ontario, in Canada, fed two groups of mice a diet high in fats and simple sugars, reports the journal Diabetes.

The first group became obese and showed signs related to metabolic syndrome -- elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood levels of insulin and glucose and a fatty liver - all of which increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.  

However the second group, which had Nobiletin added to its food, gained a normal amount of weight and showed no rise in cholesterol, insulin or glucose. They were also more sensitive to insulin and their livers were found to be less fatty.

Lead researcher Dr Murray Huff said, "The Nobiletin-treated mice were protected from obesity, and in longer-term studies, Nobiletin also protected these animals from atherosclerosis, the build-up of plaque in arteries, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. 

"This paves the way for future studies to see if this is a suitable treatment for related conditions in people."

Huff’s previous research  found a flavonoid, Naringenin, in grapefruit which also protects against obesity and metabolic syndrome. However, the tangerine flavonoid is much more potent, he said.

He explained, "What’s really  interesting to us is that Nobiletin is ten times more potent in its  protective effects compared to Naringenin, and this time, we've also shown Nobiletin has the  ability to protect against atherosclerosis."

From the April 7, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News