The term ‘nutraceutical’ refers to a food that has medicinal benefits. Blackcurrants have been rumoured to have these qualities for centuries.
Traditional healers used them for conditions such as arthritis, liver disease, kidney stones, gout, inflammation of the mouth, stomach and bowel disorders, lung ailments, fatigue, and as a diuretic.
But it’s only in recent decades that scientists have begun to seriously investigate the healing and protective powers of this remarkable fruit. Our ancestors were definitely on to something – the health benefits of blackcurrants are now being confirmed by solid scientific evidence.
One of the beneficial effects of eating fruit and vegetables like blackcurrants is their antioxidant activity against conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and the degenerative diseases of ageing. The main antioxidant compounds present in blackcurrants are phenolics (including flavonoids and anthocyanins) and vitamin C.
The purple/black colour of blackcurrants indicates the presence of the anthocyanins, which have exceptionally strong antioxidant activity as well as other health-promoting qualities.
Research shows that blackcurrants rank significantly higher in levels of antioxidant activity than other fruits.  And since most blackcurrants are consumed as juice, it’s important to know that blackcurrant antioxidants appear to be very stable and remain active after processing into juice, jam and wine.
 There is variation of antioxidant levels between products due to factors including processing methods, the amount of fruit used, if vitamin C is added, or if juice is blended with juices of lower antioxidant activity.
It’s the unusually high anthocyanin content of blackcurrants that sets them apart. Anthocyanin has been shown to reduce the effects of asthmatic lung inflammation, as well as lessening muscle damage and assisting immune responses during exercise.
International researchers have also found blackcurrants ‘can improve eyesight focus, help adapt eyes to darkness, improve blood circulation [to] limbs during cold weather, and keep people thinking sharply when making decisions under stress’.
The seeds of the fruit carry special benefits too. Blackcurrant seed oil has been shown to relieve morning stiffness symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis patients.  The oil is rich in y-linolenic acid (GLA), and is used as a health supplement in Europe and the USA.
 Nyanhanda T, Gould EM, Hurst RD. 2014. Plant-derived Foods for the Attenuation of Allergic Airway Inflammation. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 20.
 TVNZ on demand. Ever wondered? Series 1, episode 3. 2010. http://tvnz.co.nz/ever-wondered/s1-e3-video-3719910
 Health benefits of blackcurrants highlighted.TVNZ. 2010. http://tvnz.co.nz/business-news/health-benefits-blackcurrants-highlighted-3639980
 Leventhal LJ, Boyce EG, Zurier RB. 1994. Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with blackcurrant seed oil. British Journal of Rheumatology 33, 847 – 852. Watson J, Byars ML, McGill P, Kelman AW. 1993. Cytokine and prostaglandin production by monocytes of volunteers and rheumatoid arthritis patients treated with dietry supplements of blackcurrant seed oil. British Journal of Rheumatology 32, 1055 – 1058.
Further possible health benefits related to anthocyanins and other phenolics are now being investigated, including:
The combination of New Zealand’s pristine environment, unpolluted air, high ultraviolet light intensity, and specially bred varieties results in our berries having some of the highest anthocyanin levels in the world.
In 2010 Plant & Food Research Ltd published data comparing the anthocyanin content of blackcurrant juice made from New Zealand and non-New Zealand varieties (from a study of 32 non-New Zealand varieties grown in North America).  While the study wasn’t comprehensive, it showed that New Zealand varieties contained approximately 1.5 times more anthocyanins than non-New Zealand varieties.
These are just a few of the ongoing developments in blackcurrant research and news. To make sure you stay up-to-date, visit our News page today.
 Schrage B, Stevenson D, Wells RW, Lyall K, Holmes S, Deng D, Hurst RD. 2010. Evaluating the health benefits of fruits for physical fitness: A research platform. Journal of Berry Research 1, 35 – 44. Moyer RA, Hummer, KE, Finn CE, Frei, B, Worlstad RE. 2002. Anthocyanins, phenolics, and antioxidant capacity in diverse small fruits: Vaccinium, Rubus, and Ribes, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 50, 519 – 525.
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