Colour me purple and do me good!

Sujon blackcurrant whole berries and Sujon blackcurrant powder is being used in scientific trials in NZ, Japan and the UK. Much of that research has now been published in highly respected scientific journals and those trials are suggesting potential health values in the blackcurrant.

So what’s it all about?

We think the answer is in the naturally occurring phytochemicals in the blackcurrants and might explain why blackcurrants grown in NZ seem to have an exceptional potential for such global research.

So some Bio-Chemistry ‘101’:

Phytochemicals are the non-nutritive compounds produced in the secondary metabolism of plants. There are hundreds of them and we are still learning what they mean but to explain a few: one group are the Polyphenols, and they are divided into Phenolic Acids, Flavonoids, and Stilbenes:

At Sujon (and talking about our blackcurrants) we are focussed on the flavonoids: these are the colour pigments in fruits and vegetables that have a general antioxidant value and importantly, protect the plants DNA from UV ( sunlight) attack.We now know that the purple colour in the blackcurrant berry stems from the flavonoid group known as anthocyanins. Scientists in Japan initially focussed on this flavonoid and as a result virtually all global blackcurrant scientific research to date has used the anthocyanin content as a benchmark value of the blackcurrant, whether measuring the differences by variety or country of origin. (There are many types of anthocyanins and if you want to know more here is a very good website for the ‘Chemically-unchallenged’)

From that research we know that New Zealand-grown blackcurrants have exceptionally high levels of anthocyanins compared to other countries and we think we know why. It could be for the same reason that we have a very high rate of skin cancer in New Zealand: extremely strong UV sunlight resulting from our clean, clear blue skies over our land. The blackcurrant bush senses this vicious sunlight ( just like you do when you sunbathe too long) but unlike us can produce a purple protective skin (ie a high-anthocyanin phytochemical armour layer) to help stop the UV radiation harming its seeds ( those seeds contain the DNA for future regeneration of the plant).

The big question is: can our bodies use the blackcurrant’s protective mechanism (anthocyanins) when we eat the berries or the powder ourselves. Research is suggesting it might. And we still have to fully understand why, for example, our blackcurrants might support healthy blood sugar balance and be useful for sport training. So, we don’t know why it works in these ways but we are trying to find out AND as they say, if it works maybe don’t knock it. So the research goes on and in the meantime: simply colour your diet a bit purple and enjoy the culinary magic our blackcurrants can add to your day.

It is important for me to stress the following when I refer to research:

Research can be indicative of possible values to humans but most current research requires significant more trials before values are proven. While research is being carried out people should simply enjoy blackcurrants as part of a balanced diet of many foods; especially fruits and vegetables. No-one should use the above information in any way to treat themselves without discussing first with their medical professional.

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