Blackcurrants have been hailed as the ultimate “superfruit” that can help fight cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s, according to a review of published research.
The British berry was judged to be more nutritious than many other fruits, including blueberries and goji berries.
The analysis by the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) concluded that the blackcurrant contained more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than 20 other fruits tested.
Researchers said that compounds in the berry called anthocyanins can help to prevent a myriad of ailments, including MRSA infection and diabetes.
The humble blackcurrant is the ultimate "superfruit" which can help fight cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's, new findings show. The berry is far more nutritious than more exotic fruits such as goji berries and blueberries, favoured by celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna, and has the benefit of being home-grown, scientists claim. Research by Dr Derek Stewart, of the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI), has found the blackcurrant contains greater levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than 20 other fruits tested.
Crucially the amount of antioxidants means that eating blackcurrants can help prevent cancer, Alzheimer's, heart disease, eye strain, MRSA and diabetes, among other ailments.
The study looked at 20 fruits and measured the levels of antioxidants and the nutritional value. In the majority of cases the blackcurrant outperformed its rivals.
Dr Stewart, the head of the quality, health and nutrition programme at SCRI, said: "The motivation for the research came from the huge publicity surrounding superfruits, coupled with the lack of consumer knowledge and understanding of what a superfruit is or what a fruit must contain. We wanted to find out which fruit came out on top. And blackcurrants can claim to be the number one superfruit."
As well as blackcurrants, researchers analysed apples, apricots, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, grapefruit, grapes, lemons, mangoes, melons, oranges, passion fruit, peaches, pears, pomegranate, raspberries and strawberries.
British scientists are investigating how blackcurrants may hold the key in helping slow the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease
The Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) is working on a European Union-funded project that is trying to identify bio-active compounds in blackcurrants that are thought to be capable of reducing the advancement of Alzheimer’s. The SCRI is one of the UK’s leading institutes for research on plants and their interactions with the environment, particularly in managed eco-systems as well as a leader in the elucidation of the chemical, biochemical and genetic bases of quality and bioactivity in plant-derived foods and products.
The three-year initiative is looking at the natural compounds present in whole blackcurrant fruit as well as blackcurrant extracts obtained throughout the processing chain. It is these natural compounds which are thought to possess properties that protect the brain and aid in the treatment of dementia.
The project is examining cost-effective methods of extracting the compounds and how they can be developed into new functional food ingredients. The SCRI’s role will be to use their expertise in blackcurrant research to identify the active components and to aid in optimising their extraction from the fruit. The consortium will also help formulate the best-performing blackcurrant components into products suitable for human use.
Although the precise mechanisms of Alzheimer’s are not yet fully understood, significant scientific evidence suggests that brains suffering from the disease are characterised by intense oxidative stress. Recent epidemiological and experimental data suggests that diets containing various natural polyphenol compounds, with their associated high antioxidant capacity, can reduce the risk of the development of Alzheimer’s and other degenerative neurological conditions. In particular, fruit juices including blackcurrant have recently been shown to have strong neuroprotective activity in model systems.
The common, garden blackcurrant may lack exotica and be unfashionable but it nevertheless packs a punch with the highest levels of health-boosting antioxidants.
Antioxidants are natural compounds believed to enhance the body's ability to fight a range of illnesses from heart disease to cancer.
According to researcher Dr. Derek Stewart the blackcurrant is the healthiest fruit of all.
He has arrived at this conclusion by comparing the properties of 20 popular fruits, which was motivated by the amount of publicity surrounding so-called super-fruits and a dearth of consumer knowledge.
Stewart wanted to find out which fruit came out on top and he did so by analysing the findings of dozens of research papers published by other scientists; he says blackcurrants can claim to be the number one superfruit, followed by blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and pomegranates.
The fruits studied ranged from good old apples and oranges, to apricots, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, grapefruit, grapes, lemons, mangoes, melons, oranges, passion fruit, peaches, pears, pomegranate, raspberries and strawberries.
The tests which were conducted at the Scottish Crop Research Institute near Dundee, showed that blackcurrants are particularly rich in a type of anti-oxidant called anthocyanins which is responsible for the fruit's dark colour.
Blackcurrant's health benefits are not in fact a novel issue as the fruit has been used by herbalists since the middle-ages to treat bladder stones, liver disorders and coughs.
Because of the blackcurrants' high Vitamin C content the fruit was made into a cordial which was given free to children during the Second World War.
The fruit, like cranberries is rather tart and does need the addition of a little sugar to render it more palatable, especially for children.