Sicilian blood oranges prevent obesity and heart disease thanks to a particular gene

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Elia Tabuenca García
@eliatabuencagarcia
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Red oranges from Sicily. A fruit with a warm and sunny color, even if surprisingly typical of the gray winter season, able to fight many imperfections and even pathologies. An excellent source of Vitamin C, this unique citrus variety is a great source of anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants also responsible for the extraordinary color.



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Blood orangesof Sicily. A fruit with a warm and sunny color, even if surprisingly typical of the gray winter season, able to fight many imperfections and even pathologies. An excellent source of Vitamin C, this one-of-a-kind citrus variety is a great one source of anthocyanins, powerful antioxidant substances also responsible for the extraordinary color.



Now, researchers from the European Athena Project have identified the responsible gene activation of the production of this substance in blood oranges, which was given the name of "Ruby". But this gene is present in both blood and blonde oranges. So why the red color is typical of only one species and only a certain climatic conditions? The answer comes from another feature: the characteristic climate only of Sicily, with hot days and cold nights. Irreproducible environmental conditions.

And then, if in the absence of these climatic conditions the fruits fail to produce a sufficient amount of anthocyanins, what to do? Give life to a "super arancia" that can offer great health and health benefits prevention of obesity and heart disease. Which, in reality, our Sicilian blood oranges already do very well. The study, published in the scientific journal Plant Cell and conducted by the John Innes Center of Norwich, Great Britain, and by the Research Center for Citrus and Mediterranean Crops of Acireale, has therefore created this genetically modified specimen.

“I would like to emphasize - he explains Cathie Martin, coordinator of the Athena Project - the importance of a thorough understanding of the process involved in production of anthocyanins in oranges. Several studies have shown that blood orange juice consumption reduces oxidative stress in diabetic patients, protects DNA from oxidative damage and can reduce the factors of cardiovascular risk to the same extent that it occurs with other foods rich in anthocyanins. It is therefore clear that blood oranges represent an important resource for health and disease prevention ".

For the coordinator, therefore, a better knowledge of genetic and molecular basis of the production of anthocyanins in these fruits “can pave the way, through genetic engineering, towards varieties of blood oranges that can also be grown in warmer climates. In this way it would be possible to expand cultivation and contribute to a greater availability of this particular type of citrus fruit ".



"The study - comments Giuseppe Reforgiato Recupero, of the Research Center for Citrus and Mediterranean Crops - once again underlines the uniqueness of the environment in which blood oranges fully develop their beneficial potential. In fact, cold is not a sufficient condition: low temperatures induce the production of anthocyanins, but it is also true that sunny and hot days are necessary to have a sweet and tasty fruit.



But now that the genetic marker was identified it will be possible to make one quick selection: “In the past - concludes the researcher - we had to wait for the plant to develop fully (which took years) before knowing if we would have obtained blood oranges. Instead we can now select only those plants that have this genetic mark of distinction “.

Roberta Ragni

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