Lemon Peel and Oxidative Stress

A 2021 study by Chinese researchers added to the weight of evidence that lemon peel, rich in many bioactive compounds, can inhibit oxidative stress at the level of the cell. That’s where it’s most important – where the cascade effect of oxidative damage begins.

Their paper, titled Protective Effect of Lemon Peel Extract on Oxidative Stress in H9c2 Rat Heart Cell Injury, was published in the academic journal Drug Design, Development and Therapy.

Lemon Peel

Lemon peel has long been recognized for its beneficial properties by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, among others.

Rather than attempting to isolate specific compounds, the researchers used a lemon peel extract, which was introduced to the subject cells. The lemon peel used in the study was evaluated for content, and found to contain several bioflavonoids:

  • catechin,
  • rutin,
  • naringin,
  • quercetin, and
  • hesperidin.

Test Results

The in vitro test exposed the lemon peel extract to a specific type of rat heart cell with oxidative damage. Various measures were taken, including the cell survival rate, and the cell’s indicators of oxidation.

  • Lemon peel extract was better at scavenging the free radicals released by oxidation than vitamin C;
  • It improved the survival rate of cells, and reduced the chemical expressions (and presumably damage) of oxidation;
  • A higher concentration of lemon peel extract worked better than lower concentrations.

They conclude:

LPE has the potential to be developed into natural medicine or health food for the inhibition of cell oxidative damage.

Why it’s important

i. Oxidative Stress

As the body is exposed to various elements such as different types of bacteria, it generates what are called reactive oxygen species. The body, in turn, attempts to detoxify the cells that have been affected.

An imbalance in that process leads to excess oxidation, and the cell can no longer defend itself against the damage that results. It causes a kind of domino effect of damage that can have much more far-reaching accumulated results. It produces free radicals, which are linked to many different diseases and conditions, including premature aging and sudden death. That’s oxidative stress in a simplified nutshell.

ii. Waste Reduction

Despite its many uses, lemon peel remains one of the more difficult to treat waste products, and is often discarded with garbage.

So full of beneficial compounds, however – even on top of keeping tons of waste out of landfills – it makes much more sense to begin more wide scale redevelopment of lemon peel for medical and commercial use.

When it adds a pop of bright flavor to any dish or drink, it’s hard not to make the case for using more lemon zest in your day to day cuisine.

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