Stone Fruits are Weapons Against Diabetes and Obesity
Stone fruits are called such because they have a large, hard seed at the center. These fruits, which include peaches, plums and nectarines, have been found to have bioactive compounds that may help prevent obesity-related diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots and cherries are all members of the Prunus genus. We are currently in the peak season for these delicious fruits as crops deliver produce from June through September.
Dr. Luis Cisneros-Zevallos, a food scientist with Texas AgriLife Research, and a team of researchers found that stone fruits contain compounds from four major phenolic groups – anthocyanins, clorogenic acids, quercetin derivatives, and catechins. The unique combination of these nutrients work on different cells, including fat cells, macrophages, and vascular endothelial cells to combat components of disease.
"Each of these stone fruits contain similar phenolic groups but in differing proportions so all of them are a good source of health promoting compounds and may complement each other," he said, adding that his team plans to continue studying the role of each type of compound on the molecular mechanisms and confirm the work with mice studies.
Anthocyanins are a type of potent antioxidant also found in blueberries and strawberries. The compounds are the pigments which give fruits and vegetables a blue, purple or dark red color. In a recent Canadian study, mice eating high-fat diets gained less weight and body fat when also fed anthocyanins.
Clorogenic acids are another compound which have been shown to promote weight loss in obese study participants. A small study this year found that those taking the active test compound containing clorogenic acid from green coffee bean extract lost about 10.5% overall body weight and decreased body fat 16%.
Quercetin is an antioxidant which may help promote heart health by protecting the blood vessels from fatty deposits. The compound has been studied in grapes (which also contain anthocyanins) and found to reduce oxidative stress, especially in the beta cells which produce insulin. This makes quercetin a positive nutrient for diabetics.
Catechins are the nutrients best known for making green tea a heart healthy beverage. This compound is also an antioxidant which reduces inflammation in the body. Catechins may also have a small positive effect on weight loss and weight maintenance.
In addition to the antioxidant nutrients, stone fruits are low in calories and a rich source of many vitamins and minerals, including potassium, copper, and manganese. Dried fruits are also a great source of iron.
Cisneros-Zevallos says that stone fruits are potentially protective against metabolic syndrome, a condition where obesity, inflammation, dyslipidemia, and high blood pressure lead to serious health issues. Previous studies from Texas AgriLife Research have found the fruits to be protective against some cancers as well.
The studies on the health benefits of stone fruit are funded by the California Tree Fruit Agreement, The California Plum Board, the California Grape and Tree Fruit League and the Texas Department of Agriculture.