A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that citrus fruits – more specifically, a component found in them – may actually block the development of kidney cysts.
Polycystic kidney disease is the result of an inherited condition that leads to the formation of cysts in the kidneys. The results can be serious, including loss of kidney function, heart attack, and brain aneurysms. Patients usually start to show symptoms between the ages of 30 and 60.
In the United States, the American Kidney Fund estimates that more than 600,000 people live with the disease.
- How do citrus fruits help? Naringenin is the key.
Naringenin or NAR is a flavanone – ironically, perhaps, a flavorless one. It is in all citrus fruits, particularly grapefruits and oranges. The British researchers found that when they exposed the protein responsible for the polycystic kidney disease to naringenin, it blocked formation of cysts.
“This discovery provides an important step forward in understanding how polycystic kidney disease may be controlled,” says Professor Robin Williams of the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway University.
Protecting Kidneys From Damage
A 2015 study by Chinese researchers found that naringenin’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties were at work in protecting kidneys from the damaging effects of high blood pressure. Other researchers, also in China, looked into another facet of how naringenin protects the kidneys – even those already damaged by high blood pressure. Their paper was published in the International Journal of Medical Sciences in 2019.
The researchers studied the effects of narigenin on rats, and concluded that the flavonone worked to normalize the imbalance created by hypertension or high blood pressure. That’s how it can work to even reverse damage that has already occurred.
The damage to kidneys by high blood pressure can be severe, and even lead to end stage kidney disease, so any potential treatment is great news.
As with any study, more work is needed to make the connection between how to deliver the benefits to people, but it underscores the role of citrus fruits in a healthy diet.