THAT bitter taste from a spoonful of grapefruit could hold the key to tackling obesity and diabetes.

Researchers say grapefruit and other citrus fruit contain a powerful antioxidant which helps the liver to burn fat instead of storing it after eating while increasing the production of insulin.

This mimics the process in long periods of fasting where fatty acids are broken down instead of carbohydrates.

One researcher said it works “similar to the Atkins Diet, without many of the side effects”.

The study, by scientists in Jerusalem and Boston, found that the reaction is caused by the antioxidant naringenin, which gives citrus fruits – in particular grapefruit – a bitter taste.

As well as helping the obese lose weight, it could fight Type 2 diabetes, which is usually caused by bad diet, because it helps balance insulin and glucose levels.

‘It’s like the Atkins diet…but without the side-effects’

It is hoped the antioxidant could also help treat metabolic syndrome, which is to blame for excessive fat around the waist, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and high blood pressure.

Researchers discovered that naringenin can do exactly the same as two drugs currently used to treat diabetes, but without side effects.

Around 2.6million patients in Britain have Type 2 diabetes. But it is thought that another 1.1 million people have not yet been diagnosed.

Naringenin has been found to help tackle diabetes by increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin as well as helping sufferers maintain a healthy weight.

One of the researchers, Yaakov Nahmias, hailed it as a “remarkable” treatment for diabetes. He said: “It’s a fascinating find. Evidence suggests it might actually protect the liver from damage.”

Dr Nahmias said that to get the beneficial effect, someone would need to eat 400 grapefruits in one sitting.

“We really don’t recommend this,” he added. “But you can buy naringenin as a nutritional supplement which gives you the pure molecule. You would need about one pill per dose and maybe three doses a day.”

Dr Iain Frame of Diabetes UK said: “We shouldn’t get carried away that eating large amounts of grapefruit will be a magic bullet – it won’t.

“We know from research into naturally occurring products (like those in chocolate and red wine) that to have any benefit, the amounts needed are huge and unrealistic in a normal diet.

“We will watch developments with interest to see if the early promise in the laboratory delivers any benefits to people with Type 2 diabetes.”

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