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 can help people stay more alert, reduce mental fatigue and work with greater accuracy while under significant mental stress.
The anthocyanin phyto-components in blackcurrants are already well known for alleviating and preventing many different diseases and chronic illnesses, and 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.
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 the extract from the Just the Berries brand, 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.
“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 optimised 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 yoghurts.
Just the Berries will launch the product later this month under the brand Delcyan and market it as both a validated functional food ingredient and as a consumer product.