The main protective role of antioxidants in the progression of atherosclerosis has been shown in some studies. Therefore, this project evaluated the effects of Citrus aurantifolia (Christm) juice and peel on antioxidant activity and atherosclerosis progression in rabbits receiving a hypercholesterolemic diet.
Forty white New Zealand male rabbits were randomly allocated to four groups. All groups were on hypercholesterolemic diet for two months. While the first group was considered as the hypercholesterolemic control, groups 2 and 3 (intervention groups) received 5 ml/day lime juice and 1 g/day dried lime peel powder, respectively. Group 4 was fed a normal diet (normal control). Before and after the study, weight was measured and a fasting blood specimen was taken from the rabbits. Serum lipids analyses and antioxidant activity evaluations were then performed. The rabbits’ aorta and coronary arteries were separated and the presence of fatty streaks was studied.
Comparing to the hypercholesterolemic control group (-25.2 ± 7.0), only the plasma total antioxidant capacity change was significantly more in rabbits supplemented with lime juice (16.3 ± 14.7) and peel (8.6 ± 7.1) (P = 0.008). The presence of fatty streaks in coronary arteries and aorta of the intervention groups [juice (0.2 ± 0.01); peel (0.0 ± 0.00)] was significantly decreased compared to the hypercholesterolemic control group (1.2 ± 0.4) (P < 0.001).
Based on our findings, Citrus aurantifolia peel and juice increase plasma antioxidant capacity in rabbits, and can thus prevent or decelerate the process of atherogenesis. However, lime peel is more effective than lime juice.