Researchers in Japan say they believe that eating mandarins may cut the risk of developing liver cancer and other diseases.
In two studies the mandarin fruit has been found to have health benefits and the key apparently lies in the vitamin A compounds called carotenoids which give the fruit its orange colour.
One study has found that eating mandarins cut the risk of liver disease, hardened arteries and insulin resistance, while a second found that drinking the fruit's juice cut the risk of patients with chronic viral hepatitis developing liver cancer.
Scientists worldwide are discovering on an almost daily basis, the benefits from a wide variety of foods that go beyond their basic nutritional value and it is of course now generally acknowledged that the more fruit and vegetables included in a persons daily diet, the better the health outcomes on all fronts.
These 'functional foods' contain natural or modified compounds that have been shown to help fight some of the most challenging health problems, including cancer and heart disease and at a symposium currently on in the U.S. more than 50 research papers on these and other topics are being presented.
Scientists at the National Institute of Fruit Tree Science surveyed 1,073 people in the Japanese town, Mikkabi, in Shizuoka, who ate a high number of mandarin oranges.
Study leader Minoru Sugiura, Ph.D. says they found chemical markers in the population's blood samples associated with a lower risk of a number of serious conditions including liver disease, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and insulin resistance (a condition associated with diabetes).
Another team at Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine studied 30 patients with viral hepatitis who had a daily drink containing carotenoids and mandarin juice.
According to Hoyoku Nishino, M.D., Ph.D., a researcher at the university they found after a one year period, no liver cancer was found in the group, compared to a rate of 8.9% among a group of 45 patients with the same condition who did not drink the juice.
The researchers say more work is needed to continue the study over a longer period and experts agree that a larger study is needed to confirm the findings.