Oranges and lemons can help stop diseases caused by obesity, researchers have found.

Antioxidants found in citrus fruits help prevent heart disease, liver disease, and diabetes.

The study by Universidade Estadual Paulista in Brazil involved 50 mice, treating them with three flavanones - a class of antioxidants found in oranges, limes and lemons.

The mice were given either a standard diet, a high-fat diet, or a high-fat diet plus one of the flavanones. The high-fat diet without flavanones increased cell-damage markers by 80 per cent in the blood and 57 per cent in the liver compared to mice on a standard diet.

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But the flavanones decreased the cell-damage markers in the liver by up to 64 per cent and up to 48 per cent in the blood, compared with mice just fed a high-fat diet.

Graduate student Paula Ferreira told the American Chemical Society: "Our results indicate we can use citrus flavanones to prevent or delay chronic diseases caused by obesity in humans.

"This study also suggests that consuming citrus fruits probably could have beneficial effects for people who are not obese, but have diets rich in fats."