This is Part One in a series focusing on the New Zealand Blackcurrant and the effect on human health.
“New Zealand blackcurrants have a higher total antioxidant activity than blackcurrants grown elsewhere globally, and higher than blueberries, acai and goji etc., which has often been reported as having the richest antioxidant levels of fruit worldwide”.- C. Lister, Antioxidants, a health revolution, All you need to know about antioxidants, NZ Institute for Crop & Food Research, 2003.
Due to the unique commercial blackcurrant varieties grown and high levels of UV sunlight experienced in New Zealand, these blackcurrant berries produce the highest level of phytosterols of any commercially grown fruit on the planet, with anthocyanins figuring prominently. The New Zealand blackcurrant is therefore a powerhouse of antioxidants, with an antioxidant level of 7600umol Trolox Equivalent Antioxidant Capacity (TEAC) per serve compared to blueberries at 5200 umol TEAC per serve (source: C. Lister et al., The nutritional composition and health benefits of New Zealand tamarillos, Crop & Food Research Confidential Report No. 1281, 2005, page 17, table 14: Antioxidant activity (as measured by the ABTS assay) of some foods and supplements on a per 100 g basis and per standard serving).
Much of the antioxidant activity is based around the coloured compounds in the blackcurrant – the intense rich black-red, provided by the anthocyanins. New Zealand varieties contain as much as 700mg/100g fresh fruit. This compares very favourably with many blueberries at around 100-200mg/100g. Research undertaken by Dr Roger Hurst and his team at the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Ltd. (Plant & Food Research) has shown that compared to – for example – USA blackcurrants the anthocyanin levels are significantly higher in the New Zealand cultivars such as “Ben Ard”, “Ben Rua”, “Blackadder”, “Magnus” and two “New Selections (1&2)” from their new cultivar breeding programmes. (source: B. Schrage et al., Evaluating the health benefits of fruits for physical fitness: A research platform, Journal of Berry Research 1 (2010), 35-44).
Scientists at Plant & Food Research have also shown that premium New Zealand blackcurrants have a higher total antioxidant activity than blackcurrants grown elsewhere globally, and higher than blueberries, acai and goji etc., which has often been reported as having the richest antioxidant levels of fruit worldwide. (source: http://www.barkers.co.nz/index.cfm/NEWS/LATEST_RESEARCH/Anthocyanins___The_Practical_Reality_For_New_Zealanders, C. Lister, Antioxidants, a health revolution, All you need to know about antioxidants, New Zealand Institute for Crop & Food Research, 2003, ISBN 0-478-10832-X)
Around 75% of New Zealand commercial blackcurrant production lies in the cultivars ‘Ben Ard’ and ‘Ben Rua’. Scientists in New Zealand have found that the high UV intensity and unique climatic conditions specific to the geographic region are causing the blackcurrant varieties in New Zealand to produce the unusually high levels of polyphenols, minerals and vitamins, we believe to be the highest of any cultivated food in the world.