Planning to splurge on a high fat, high carb meal? Washing it down with orange juice might prevent any harm. New research from the State University of New York at Buffalo suggests that drinking orange juice can help counteract the inflammatory effects on the body of an unhealthy meal. Researchers tested this idea on three groups of 10 normal, healthy individuals. Everyone in the study ate a 900 calorie fast food type meal of egg and sausage muffins and hash brown potatoes. Along with their meal, one group drank water, one a 300 calorie glucose/water drink and the third three cups of orange juice. The researchers took blood samples from all the participants before the meals and again about five hours later. The second round of tests found significant increases in markers of inflammatory stress in the groups that received water and the water/glucose drink. However, no such changes showed up in those who drank orange juice. The researchers suggested that the orange juice effect is probably due to the flavonoids it contains - natural compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. The study was published online on March 3, 2010 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
My take? A few years ago researchers at the University of California at Davis found that plant sterols added to orange juice lowered levels of C-reactive protein, a substance in blood that is a marker for inflammation. (Plant sterols are compounds chemically similar to the good cholesterol the body produces and can help lower cholesterol levels.) Despite these findings and those of the latest study, I wouldn't rely on orange juice to counteract the inflammatory effects of unhealthy meals. For long-term control of the harmful consequences of inflammation the best strategy is an anti-inflammatory diet.