Imagine a natural compound that can help you lose weight by converting ugly white fat into another type of fat whose energy store gets “burned up” more easily. Sounds too good to be true? Well, researchers say that limonin appears to do just this.
Limonin and How it interacts with your body fat
We need fat. Our bodies use it to create and store energy, protect our internal organs, and help our cells function. These things are essential to good health.
On the flip side, too much fat – especially white fat – can cause chronic disease and metabolic health issues.
There are three types of fat in the body
1. White fat is that ugly fat that most of us want to get rid of. But we need a certain amount of it to store energy and improve insulin sensitivity in the liver and muscles. But too much white fat, especially in the belly, can raise insulin levels and alter hormones and proteins. This ultimately leads to increased inflammation, higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and the risk of insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.
2. Brown fat is the kind we like. These fat cells are packed with energy-producing mitochondria. Brown fat cells also express uncoupling protein-1 (UCP-1), used to convert energy into heat (to keep the body warm) and to burn calories. Activation of brown fat reduces obesity and other metabolic diseases; when we have higher levels of brown fat, we tend to be leaner.
3. Beige fat is created when white fat cells undergo a change, making them similar to brown fat. Beige fat cells also produce energy and heat, although they’re less thermogenic than brown fat cells.
So, you’ve guessed by now. Brown and beige fat will help you to get rid of some of that wiggly body fat and improve your metabolic health.
Is limonin a dieter’s secret weapon?
- Limonin is not the same as limonene.
- It’s a bitter compound found in citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit, lemons, etc.), specifically in the seeds. It’s high in antioxidants and is anti-inflammatory.
- Limonene is also found in citrus fruits, but mainly in the peel.
What did the research reveal?
Researchers wanted to see if they could use limonin to reduce obesity (via thermogenesis or heat production) and improve metabolic health. In this study, they fed mice a high-fat diet supplemented with limonin. They hoped to activate brown fat cells and promote the conversion of white fat cells into beige as a way to reduce weight.
The research demonstrated that limonin stimulated thermogenesis in obese mice through both brown and beige fat; it also increased energy expenditure. This meant they could use it to reduce body weight and weight gain in mice with high body fat.
The study also showed that limonin improved fatty liver and hyperlipidemia (high lipid level) caused by a high-fat diet. This implies that limonin could be beneficial in lipid metabolism as well as insulin resistance.
What does this mean?
If we want to get rid of our excess fat, should we start taking limonin?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. We’d need about 240 mg daily and eating just citrus fruit probably won’t give you enough to get these fat-burning, weight-loss, metabolic benefits. (Remember, the highest concentration of limonin is found in the seeds.)
And whilst it seems limonin in isolated form has great potential, there’s some concern in the literature about its bioavailability and whether there are toxic effects at these doses. More research is needed.
However, given its great potential, it may not be so far-fetched that one-day limonin may be used to help treat obesity and metabolic health.