by John Summerly

Blackcurrant is full of powerful antioxidants which can help people stay more alert, reduce mental fatigue and work with greater accuracy while under significant mental stress. They also have the amazing side effect of slashing the risk of heart attacks, stroke and heart failure.

A study by Plant & Food Research, one of New Zealand’s crown research institutes, has shown that an extract of New Zealand blackcurrants enriched in anthocyanins is an incredible stimulator of the senses.

The anthocyanin phyto-components in blackcurrants are already well known for alleviating and preventing many different diseases and chronic illnesses.

The black currant is very appreciated for the alimentary and therapeutic value of its fruits, which contain an important complex of antioxidants and vitamins. Because it contains vitamin C, the black currant is used in treating cardiovascular diseases, preventing cardiac insufficiency and vascular accidents, it increases the resistance of fragile sanguine capillaries, reduces arterial hypertension. Also, it intensifies weak peripheral circulation caused by menopause, cleans the blood of toxins, wastes and cholesterol.

There is also a growing body of science supporting the potential beneficial effects of berry extracts. The main finding is that long-term consumption of cold-compressed juices from blackcurrent and other berries show anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic actions in spontaneously hypertensive rats.

An earlier study by Plant & Food research found that New Zealand’s blackcurrants have higher concentrations of these compounds than those grown in other countries.

Compared to European blackcurrants, which have been shown to have 250-500mg anthocyanin content per 100g, their Kiwi counterparts contain an average of 570mg. The Ben Ard variety, which is grown in the country, even contains more than 700mg, according to the research.

Constant attention

In the randomised, double-blind study, 35 healthy young participants were asked to complete 70-minute computerised assessments that were designed to demand constant attention and create mental fatigue. Among the tests, subjects were asked to watch a series of random numbers and respond when three consecutive odd numbers appeared.

The trial found that, compared to placebo, after taking a blackcurrent extract, participants worked more accurately without slowing down, and felt more alert and less mentally-fatigued after the test.

“We know that there are compounds in dark berry fruits, like blackcurrants, that have real effects on people’s health and wellbeing,” said Arjan Scheepens, the study’s leader. “We found that, compared to a placebo, taking an enriched blackcurrant extract before performing stressful mental tests helped trial participants maintain accuracy, and that their mental fatigue was significantly reduced.

Identify Compounds

“Our next stage is to identify exactly which compounds are creating this effect, and using this knowledge to develop new whole and processed foods or ingredients that deliver optimized performance.”

New Zealand currently produces approximately 12,000 tonnes of blackcurrants each year and is now the country’s biggest selling fruit for jams, juices, and yogurts.

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John Summerly is nutritionist, herbologist, and homeopathic practitioner. He is a leader in the natural health community and consults athletes, executives and most of all parents of children on the benefits of complementary therapies for health and prevention.

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