Obesity and overweight have reached epidemic proportions globally with more than 1 billion adults, not only in affluent societies but also in developing countries. Moreover, obesity is considered to be one of the major risks for chronic diseases, such as hyperlipidemia, heart diseases, type 2 diabetes and disability. Other co-morbidities include gall-bladder disease, fatty liver, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis with reduced quality of life and life expectancy. Therapeutic weight loss includes a combination of diet, exercise and behaviour modification and sometimes weight loss drugs, but natural active substances offer a safe and effective solution and support to the reduction and management of body weight. Over the last years, several studies have proven the beneficial effect that flavonoids and polyphenolic compounds, widely distributed in the human diet, have on body weight-control and obesity (1,2). In vivo and in vitro studies demonstrated that flavonoids are able to affect lipid metabolism by specific molecular actions. For example, anthocyanins were shown to ameliorate adipocyte metabolism by regulation of adipocytokine gene expression (3,4). Subjects suffering from obesity showed a strong decrease in adiponection expression, one of the most important adipocytokines specifically expressed in adipocytes and involved in their dysfunctions. It was observed that in human adipocyte anthocyanin compounds can induce a normalisation of adipocytokines, such as adiponection and, consequently, could be used in the prevention and treatment of obesity and associated metabolic syndrome (3,4). Of all the plants and fruits containing flavonoid compounds, red or blood oranges (Citrus sinesis (L.) Osbeck)have been recently evaluated for their beneficial effects (5-17). In particular, several in vitro and in vivo studies have investigated the health-related properties of red orange intake (especially, Moro oranges) on weight management (18-20). Amongst blood oranges (Tarocco, Sanguinello and Moro), the Moro variety is the most brightlycolored, with a deep red flesh.
THE HYSTORY OF SICILIAN RED ORANGES: FROM CHINA TO THE MEDITERRANEAN
Red or blood oranges (Citrus sinesis (L.) Osbeck) are pigmented oranges with crimson and blood-colored flesh. Red oranges distinguish from blond oranges for the presence of red pigments, belonging to the class of anthocyanins (particularly cianydin-3-glucoside and its derivatives) and for the high content of hydroxycinnamic acids (ferulic, cumaric, caffeic and sinapic acid), flavonoids (hesperidin, narirutin) and vitamin C. The exact origin of red oranges is unknown and, according to several historical sources, Citrus sinensis trees were transported from China, southeastern Asia and northeastern India, along Asian trade routes to the Mediterranean basin. In Sicily, citrus fruits were cultivated as ornament until the 16 century and it was only towards the end of the 19 century that red orange production became a major part of Sicilian agriculture. Nowadays, the production of the most common types of red oranges (Moro, Tarocco, Sanguinello) is typical of the Eastern Sicily, where these varieties have found ideal environmental conditions to improve their genotypic features. In fact, the pool of antioxidant compounds contained in the red orange fruits act as a natural protective system against extreme climatic fluctuations that occurs in area surrounding Mount Etna, where the pigmented orange varieties grow almost exclusively.
RED ORANGE COMPLEX®is a solid extract obtained from red oranges (Moro, Tarocco, Sanguinello varieties) containing the following active substances: anthocyanins (2.8-3.2% w/w), hydroxycinnamic acid (1.8-2.2%), flavone glycoside (8.5-9.5%) and ascorbic acid (5.5-6.5%).