The news is sure to please manufacturers, who for a long time have been promoting orange juice as a healthy drink, despite its high sugar content. The study, carried out by the University of Buffalo in the US, examined flavonoids present in orange juice the way that they suppress oxygen free radicals, also known as reactive oxygen species (ROS). Paresh Dandona, the study's senior author, concluded that the study's findings are more important than fears over the sugar content of juice, especially in the US. "Obesity, being overweight and type 2 diabetes are associated with oxidative stress and inflammation, and more than 60 per cent of US population is affected by these conditions," Dandona said. The study involved 32 healthy participants between the ages of 20 and 40, who were of normal weight, with a body mass index of 20-25 kg/m2. They were divided into four groups, and given the equivalent of 300 calories-worth of either glucose, fructose, orange juice or saccharin-sweetened water. Fasting blood samples were taken before the test and at time intervals of 1, 2 and 3 hours after the drinks were consumed. Results showed that there was a significant increase in ROS amongst participants who drunk, whereas ROS levels remained stable for all the other groups. "We were intrigued by the fact that there was no increase in ROS or inflammation following orange juice consumption, even though its glucose concentration was the same as in participants in the glucose group," said Dandona. Further tests suggested that one of the flavonoids in orange juice, naringenin, inhibited ROS by massive 77 per cent, Dandona added. The production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) is a natural process in the human body. Under normal conditions, a balance exists between the body's anti-oxidant defences and these ROS. However, factors such as aging, smoking, pollution, exposure to sunlight, and high intensity exercise disturb this balance in favour of ROS and results in oxidative stress - a process linked with an increased risk of chronic disease. The US is by far the biggest global market for fruit juice, according to industry analysts Canadean, accounting for over 35 percent of sales.
Elsewhere in North America, Canada's consumption has risen by more than 45 per cent since 1997, giving Canadians the highest per capita consumption in the world. Orange is particularly popular there, with a share some 18 percentage points higher then the global average.