Consumption of out-of-season orange modulates fat accumulation, morphology and gene expression in the adipose tissue of Fischer 344 rats

Eur J Nutr. 2020 Mar;59(2):621-631. doi: 10.1007/s00394-019-01930-9. Epub 2019 Feb 20.


Purpose: According to the xenohormesis theory, animals receive signals from plants that give clues about the changing environment, and thus, depending on the season of the year, animals develop physiological changes to adapt in advance to the seasonal changes. Our objective was to study how the same fruit cultivated during two different seasons could affect the adipose tissue of rats.

Methods: Thirty-six Fischer 344 rats were acclimated for 4 weeks to long-day or short-day (SD) photoperiods. After adaptation, three groups (n = 6) from each photoperiod were supplemented either with orange from the northern (ON) or southern (OS) hemispheres harvested in the same month or a vehicle (VH) for 10 weeks. Biometric measurements, postprandial plasmatic parameters, gene expression of the inguinal white adipose tissue (IWAT) and brown adipose tissue (BAT), and the histology of the IWAT were analysed.

Results: The OSSD group increased its fat content compared to the VHSD, while the ON groups showed no biometric differences. The OS groups were further studied, and the IWAT showed increased levels of Pparγ gene expression and a higher percentage of larger adipocytes compared to the VH group. The BAT showed down-regulation of Lpl, Cpt1b and Pparα in the OSSD group compared to that in the VHSD group, suggesting an inhibition of BAT activity, however, Ucp1 gene expression was up-regulated.

Conclusions: We observed a different effect from both fruits, with the OS promoting a phenotype prone to fat accumulation when consumed in an SD photoperiod, which might be explained by the xenohormesis theory.

Keywords: Brown adipose tissue; Obesity; Photoperiod; Seasonality; White adipose tissue; Xenohormesis.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Citrus sinensis*
  • Diet / methods*
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data
  • Gene Expression / physiology*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Seasons*