Effects of Citrus aurantium (bitter orange) fruit extracts and p-synephrine on metabolic fluxes in the rat liver

Molecules. 2012 May 16;17(5):5854-69. doi: 10.3390/molecules17055854.


The fruit extracts of Citrus aurantium (bitter orange) are traditionally used as weight-loss products and as appetite supressants. An important fruit component is p-synephrine, which is structurally similar to the adrenergic agents. Weight-loss and adrenergic actions are always related to metabolic changes and this work was designed to investigate a possible action of the C. aurantium extract on liver metabolism. The isolated perfused rat liver was used to measure catabolic and anabolic pathways, including oxygen uptake and perfusion pressure. The C. aurantium extract and p-synephrine increased glycogenolysis, glycolysis, oxygen uptake and perfusion pressure. These changes were partly sensitive to α- and β-adrenergic antagonists. p-Synephrine (200 μM) produced an increase in glucose output that was only 15% smaller than the increment caused by the extract containing 196 μM p-synephrine. At low concentrations the C. aurantium extract tended to increase gluconeogenesis, but at high concentrations it was inhibitory, opposite to what happened with p-synephrine. The action of the C. aurantium extract on liver metabolism is similar to the well known actions of adrenergic agents and can be partly attributed to its content in p-synephrine. Many of these actions are catabolic and compatible with the weight-loss effects usually attributed to C. aurantium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Citrus / chemistry*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Fruit / chemistry*
  • Glycogen / metabolism
  • Glycogenolysis
  • Glycolysis
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Oxygen Consumption / drug effects
  • Perfusion
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Synephrine / pharmacology*
  • Weight Loss / drug effects


  • Adrenergic alpha-Antagonists
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Plant Extracts
  • Glycogen
  • Synephrine