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Fruitful study into health benefits of golden kiwifruit

Media Release

9 December 2011

Fruitful study into health benefits of golden kiwifruit

Carbohydrate chemists from crown research institute IRL have uncovered the secrets behind the cell wall of Zespri’s patented variety of gold kiwifruit, opening the door to new understandings about the fruit’s digestive benefits.

Kiwifruit marketer Zespri, which owns the Plant Variety Rights for ZESPRI®GOLD Kiwifruit (Actinidia chinensis var. Hort16A), commissioned the research to find out more about its potential health benefits.

IRL chemist Dr Simon Hinkley says a number of studies have shown kiwifruit to be beneficial for the digestive system because they are high in fibre and contain bioactive agents that promote the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria. Among these agents are the polysaccharides or complex carbohydrates.

But, says Dr Hinkley, most research published to date has focused on the original, green variety with a gap in knowledge about the newer gold kiwifruit.

The IRL team found little difference between the types and total levels of complex carbohydrates in the two varieties although ZESPRI®GOLD Kiwifruit has higher amounts of a compound known to break down more easily in the stomach.

Zespri Health Science Manager Lynley Drummond says the research has provided the tools needed to study whether there are different health benefits from eating a gold or a green kiwifruit.

“Now we know the structure of the components in each variety, we can follow them through the digestive process.”

She says that research is being carried out through a collaborative project involving IRL, Plant and Food Research, AgResearch and the Riddet Institute.

“We’ve been able to track the fate of fibre from both green and gold kiwifruit as it passes through the digestive system, helping us understand how and why kiwifruit are good for people.
“It’s no longer good enough to say a product must be good for you – consumers are rightly demanding robust science that proves the efficacy of foods that make claims about their health benefits.”

The original, analytical work by IRL’s Carbohydrate Chemistry team has been published in Carbohydrate Polymers, a peer-reviewed journal focusing on carbohydrate polymers with industrial uses.

Lynley Drummond says findings from the very successful collaborative, follow-up research, will be published in the near future.

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