“Spectacular” – that’s how Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor describes the work of the Horticultural Export Authority.
The world-first discovery by associate-professor Dr Jian Guan of the university’s Centre for Brain Research found NZ blackcurrants contain high levels of cyclic Glycine-Proline (cGP), a key brain nutrient that normalises a hormone essential for whole-body health.
Guan, after 30 years research, says low levels of cGP are commonly found in older people. It can decline with age so the high natural level of cGP in NZ blackcurrants can help maintain these levels.
“I like to call it the maintenance of ageing,” says Guan. “It is an exciting finding because it is something completely natural that can support your body and mind to stay healthy as you age.”
Guan came across “the power of NZ blackcurrants” by chance when researching levels of cGP in patients who had NZ blackcurrants added to their diet. She found increased levels of cGP after four weeks of consuming blackcurrants. “It’s unique to see a response like this in a natural product,” she says.
Guan has worked with NZ blackcurrant specialists Vitality New Zealand to develop Brain Shield, a blackcurrant supplement for daily consumption. The product is formulated to deliver an average daily dose required to maintain an optimum level of cGP in the body as we age.
Jim Grierson, the managing director of Vitality New Zealand, co-founded the company with blackcurrant grower David Eder. Grierson says they have known about the health benefits of NZ blackcurrants for many years and now have the science to show this.
“NZ blackcurrants have a natural and very high level of cGP, which is unique to our locally grown blackcurrants. This is a major development for the industry.”
He says Brain Shield is a combination of NZ blackcurrant and flax seed oil (linseed), along with two stabilising minerals to complete the formulation. The flax seed oil delivers Omega 3 to complement the natural cGP found in blackcurrants.
“NZ blackcurrants really are a super-fruit. This discovery comes at a time when the NZ blackcurrant industry is undergoing a transition as consumers become more aware of how good they are for whole-body health,” Grierson says.
“We are also seeing a growing interest from the scientific community in the health supporting properties found naturally in our blackcurrants and we are excited to see what other benefits may come to light.”
The hormone that cGP normalises is called Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1).