(Natural News) Red pitaya (Hylocereus polyrhizus), known as red dragon fruit in Malaysia, has been found to prevent obesity. In the study published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, it was found that red pitaya improves energy balance homeostasis by regulating the anorectic, orexigenic and energy expenditure-related genes.
Researchers at Universiti Putra Malaysia in Malaysia looked at the red pitaya-targeted genes in obesity by using high-carbohydrate, high-fat diet-induced metabolic syndrome mouse model.
In an earlier study conducted by the same team, they found that supplementation of red pitaya improved liver and cardiovascular damage induced by high-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. In addition, they discovered that red pitaya supplementation increased energy intake without increasing body weight. Therefore, the researchers hypothesized that red pitaya may promote anorectic genes or down-regulate orexigenic genes to increase energy expenditure.
For the latest study, they examined four groups of mice: cornstarch diet group; cornstarch and red pitaya juice diet group; high-carbohydrate, high-fat diet group; high-carbohydrate, high-fat, and red pitaya juice diet group. The treatment with red pitaya juice went on for eight weeks after the first eight weeks of the diet.
The researchers, then, collected and weighed the mice’ retroperitoneal, epididymal, and omental fat pads. They also measured plasma levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin 6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha. Moreover, they conducted gene expression analysis and analyzed a total of 84 genes related to obesity.
The results of the study revealed that mice supplemented with red pitaya juice for eight weeks experienced increases in omental and epididymal fat. Moreover, red pitaya juice also reversed the changes in energy balance homeostasis in liver tissues, as it regulated expression levels of proopiomelanocortin (Pomc) and insulin receptor (an anorectic gene). Pomc plays a key role in the central regulation of energy balance by decreasing food intake and increasing energy expenditure. These results revealed that genetic mechanisms play a key role in determining body weight by controlling energy balance homeostasis.
Therefore, the researchers concluded that red pitaya juice may prevent obesity by improving energy balance homeostasis, and red pitaya improves energy balance homeostasis by regulating the anorectic, orexigenic and energy expenditure related genes.
Dragon fruit and its many health benefits
Dragon fruit, which is a tropical fruit native to southern Mexico and Central America, grows on the Hylocereus cactus. The plant goes by many names, such as pitaya, pitahaya, and strawberry pear. The two most common types have bright red skin with green scales that are similar to a dragon’s. This unique-looking fruit provides many health benefits. Here are some of them:
- Packed with nutrients – It may be low in calories, but it is packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds, such as polyphenols, carotenoids, and betacyanins.
- May fight chronic illness – Dragon fruit is rich in antioxidants, such as vitamin C, betalains, carotenoids. These antioxidants neutralize free radicals, thereby preventing cell damage and inflammation. Many studies showed that diets rich in antioxidants may help fight chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis. (Related: Dragon Fruit- Prevents Cancer, Protects Your Vision, Suppress Sugar Spikes & More.)
- Rich in fiber – Dragon fruit provides seven grams of fiber per one-cup serving, which makes it a great source of dietary fiber, helping you meet your recommended daily values.
- Promotes a healthy gut – Dragon fruit contains prebiotics, which can improve the balance of good bacteria in the gut, thereby promoting a healthy gut.
- Boosts immunity – Dragon fruit is rich in vitamin C and carotenoids, which protect white blood cells from damage. Thus, dragon fruit can boost the immune system and prevent infection.
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