LONDON, ONT. -- A new study from London’s Western University suggests drinking two-and-a-half glasses of orange juice a day could help prevent heart disease and diabetes.

Researchers have found a molecule, called nobiletin, in sweet oranges and tangerines that significantly reduces obesity and can reverse its negative side-effects.

“Obesity and its resulting metabolic syndromes are a huge burden to our health care system, and we have very few interventions that have been shown to work effectively,” said Murray Huff, PhD professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry in a statement.

During the study, obese mice that were fed nobiletin became noticeably leaner. They also showed lower levels of insulin resistance and blood fats compared to mice on a high-fat diet.

“We‘ve shown that in mice that already have all the negative symptoms of obesity, we can use nobiletin to reverse those symptoms, and even start to regress plaque build-up in the arteries,” added Huff.

Nobiletin is an antioxidant found in the peel and fruit of sweet oranges and tangerines. So far, it remains a mystery why it is effective.

Huff said the findings are clinically important as they show nobiletin won’t interfere with the body’s natural ability to burn and block the manufacture of fats.

The research team hopes to start human trials to determine if nobiletin has the same positive metabolic effects.