The health benefits of the humble orange

Orange juice other citrus drinks and citrus fruit are produced and consumed all over the world and have been one of my favourite drinks since childhood and my mum had an orange juice every day of her life. Despite the incorrect mixed messages we get about too much fruit or fruit juice they are one of the major sources for nutrients for kids and adults alike and play a big role in keeping us healthy. 

Citrus fruits don’t just taste great they also have and abundant nutrients and phytochemicals (plant nutrients), such as folic acid, vitamins A and C, mineral elements, carotenoids, and a large group of nutrients know as polyphenols 1. They are a good source of dietary antioxidants and their role in the prevention and treatment of various diseases were widely studied 2. In fact, there are well over 1000 studies on the topic. The major polyphenols found in citrus are flavonoids, which are considered to be one of the most important sources of bioactive compounds and have a huge range of health benefits.

Despite everyone focussing on the vitamin C in citrus products it is the flavonoids that really make the difference. These flavonoids affect the quality of fruits in terms of appearance, taste and nutritional value, not to mention their potent antioxidant, inflammatory, and immune system benefits 3. Other bioactive molecules also present in various citrus fruit and juice include anthocyanins, carotenoids and pectins which also have lots of benefits but are in much smaller amounts. To sum it up citrus fruits and juices are power packed with nutrients and should be encouraged at all times for all people.

The main flavonoids in citrus are hesperidin, nobiletin, naringin (the bitter taste in grapefruits which is converted to naringenin), and neohesperidin, which appear to synergistically enhance the anti-inflammatory activity 4, so they are much better when they are together, and have so many health benefits. Different species of citrus are characterized by different individual flavonoid compounds and also the growing conditions can also have a big impact on the concentrations of these nutrients.

Citrus flavonoids have been used in the treatment of different diseases, including arthritis, diabetes mellitus, cancer and neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, as well as liver, kidney and heart diseases 5. While the consumption of citrus flavanones has repeatedly been associated with a lower risk of degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and cancers 3. This potentially protective effect has been related to the various properties of these compounds, which include anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory activities 3, 6, 7

The flavonoids from citrus fruit have been shown to benefit diabetes and related complications 8, mental illness and brain health, 9 and recent evidence has indicated that citrus flavonoids could modulate the microbiota composition and activity by inhibiting pathogenic (nasty) bacteria and selectively stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria and assisting in gut repair and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. 10, 11

So lots and lots of benefits and no downsides.



1 Zou Z., Xi W.P., Hu Y., Nie C., Zhou Z.Q. Antioxidant activity of Citrus fruits. Food Chem. 2016;196:885–896. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2015.09.072.

2 Cirmi S., Navarra M., Woodside J.V., Cantwell M.M. Citrus fruits intake and oral cancer risk: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Pharm. Res. 2018;133:187–194. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2018.05.008.

3 Yi L., Ma S., Ren D. Phytochemistry and bioactivity of Citrus flavonoids: A focus on antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer and cardiovascular protection activities. Phytochem. Rev. 2017;16:479–511. doi: 10.1007/s11101-017-9497-1

4 Ho S.C., Kuo C.T. Hesperidin, nobiletin, and tangeretin are collectively responsible for the anti-neuroinflammatory capacity of tangerine peel (Citri reticulatae pericarpium) Food Chem. Toxicol. 2014;71:176–182. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2014.06.014

5 Curr Pharm Des. 2021;27(4):513-530. doi: 10.2174/1381612826666201127122313. An Up-to-Date Review on Citrus Flavonoids: Chemistry and Benefits in Health and Diseases Osama M Ahmed  1 Sameh F AbouZid  2 Noha A Ahmed  1 Mohamed Y Zaky  1 Han Liu  3  PMID: 33245267  DOI: 10.2174/1381612826666201127122313 

6 Barreca D., Gattuso G., Bellocco E., Calderaro A., Trombetta D., Smeriglio A., Lagana G., Daglia M., Meneghini S., Nabavi S.M. Flavanones: Citrus phytochemical with health-promoting properties. Biofactors. 2017;43:495–506. doi: 10.1002/biof.1363.

7 Molecules. 2017 Apr; 22(4): 623. Published online 2017 Apr 15. 

doi: 10.3390/molecules22040623 PMCID: PMC6154582 PMID: 28420125 Bioavailable Citrus sinensis Extract: Polyphenolic Composition and Biological Activity Giacomo Pepe,1,2 Francesco Pagano,1,2 Simona Adesso,1 Eduardo Sommella,1,2 Carmine Ostacolo,3 Michele Manfra,4 Marcello Chieppa,1,5 Marina Sala,1 Mariateresa Russo,2 Stefania Marzocco,1 and Pietro Campiglia1,6,*

8 Nutrients. 2020 Oct; 12(10): 2907. Published online 2020 Sep 23. doi: 10.3390/nu12102907 PMCID: PMC7598193 PMID: 32977511 Citrus Flavonoids as Promising Phytochemicals Targeting Diabetes and Related Complications: A Systematic Review of In Vitro and In Vivo Studies Gopalsamy Rajiv Gandhi,1,2,3 Alan Bruno Silva Vasconcelos,4 Ding-Tao Wu,5 Hua-Bin Li,6 Poovathumkal James Antony,7 Hang Li,1,2 Fang Geng,8 Ricardo Queiroz Gurgel,3 Narendra Narain,9 and Ren-You Gan

9 Front Neurosci. 2021 Feb 19;15:640648. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2021.640648. eCollection 2021. Citrus Polyphenols in Brain Health and Disease: Current Perspectives Matthew G Pontifex  1 Mohammad M A H Malik  1 Emily Connell  1 Michael Müller  1 David Vauzour  1 PMID: 33679318 PMCID: PMC7933480 DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2021.640648 

10. Flavonoids from Citrus aurantium ameliorate TNBS-induced ulcerative colitis through protecting colonic mucus layer integrity. He W, Liu M, Li Y, Yu H, Wang D, Chen Q, Chen Y, Zhang Y, Wang T. Eur J Pharmacol. 2019 Aug 15;857:172456. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2019.172456. Epub 2019 Jun 17. PMID: 31220438 

11 Citrus aurantium L. and Its Flavonoids Regulate TNBS-Induced Inflammatory Bowel Disease through Anti-Inflammation and Suppressing Isolated Jejunum Contraction. 

He W, Li Y, Liu M, Yu H, Chen Q, Chen Y, Ruan J, Ding Z, Zhang Y, Wang T. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Oct 7;19(10):3057. doi: 10.3390/ijms19103057. PMID: 30301267