NZ Blackcurrant Extract Could ‘turn Back The Clock Ten Years’ For Arterial Health
Internationally praised for its numerous health and fitness benefits, from performance to immunity, studies now reveal New Zealand blackcurrant extract could also provide clinically-significant cardioprotective effects after ‘turning back the clock ten years’ in a project on arterial health in adults.
Japan’s Nippon Sport Science University made the startling discovery after measuring the effect of the anthocyanin extract on arterial stiffness and blood pressure – powerful predictors of future cardiovascular events - in a group of healthy men and women aged 65 and over.
The group took blackcurrant for just seven days, with the clinically-relevant changes illustrating that if these changes were sustained with longer-term use, blackcurrant extract might offer a natural dietary means of reducing cardiovascular risk factors in the ageing population.
Cardiovascular disease-related mortality is one of the biggest health problems worldwide and strategies are needed for prevention.
The group of adults tested had no history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes, were non-smokers of healthy weight and did not take habitual exercise. They took two capsules (600mg) CurraNZ® blackcurrant supplement daily for seven days.
The tests showed CurraNZ® blackcurrant extract:
- Reduced central blood pressure by an average 10mmHg
- Reduced arterial stiffness in both the carotid and femoral arteries
- Displayed ‘whole body’ improvements to vascular health
Hardening of the arteries occurs with age and is strongly influenced by diet and lifestyle factors. The condition can precede hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Growing evidence highlights that specific flavonoids from plant bioactive compounds naturally found in fruits can improve vascular function and arterial health.
Blackcurrants have particularly high concentrations of compounds called anthocyanins, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and are highly effective at improving blood flow.
The explanation for the berry’s anti-ageing effect on arterial function is unknown, but several studies on CurraNZ, a flagship international New Zealand blackcurrant extract supplement product, have highlighted its auspicious blood flow-promoting actions.
Multiple studies have shown that the supplement increases arterial blood flow 20%-35% in healthy individuals and significantly improves the output and volume of blood pumped around the body.
This study adds to the developing picture of its potential health benefits for adults. It is the second study to show that just using the supplement for a week can lower stress from the cardiovascular system and lower blood pressure in older adults to clinically significant degrees.
Dr Takanobu Okamoto, from the Nippon Sport Science University in Japan, who performed the study, says: “Intake of anthocyanin-rich blackcurrants might be beneficial for maintaining or improving cardiovascular health as an important non-pharmacological therapy to prevent cardiovascular diseases in older adults.”
Author and UK collaborator on the paper, Mark Willems, Professor of Exercise Physiology at the University of Chichester, has led the majority of British research into New Zealand blackcurrant. He was surprised by the degree of changes observed after just one week of using the supplement.
The international expert on blackcurrant for sport and health says: “By improving the condition of the arteries you’re reducing the consequences of ageing on the vascular system. Blackcurrant is somehow making blood vessels younger again.
“The extract showed a surprising systemic effect and reduced the age of the arteries equivalent to ten years.”
Arterial stiffness occurs through accumulation of plaque deposits on the walls of the arteries, which leads to reduced function and blood flow. Unhealthy dietary and lifestyle habits are also major contributors.
Smoking, high alcohol intake, lack of exercise, Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension, obesity, stress and inflammatory conditions all contribute to arterial stiffness, which can be controlled by healthy diet and lifestyle choices.
Professor Willems adds: “Ageing is a process you cannot stop but with the right nutrition and other lifestyle choices, you can age more healthily. These observations show that blackcurrants can support vascular health in a short period and to a surprising degree. It adds to the scientific picture that New Zealand blackcurrant extract can be highly beneficial for healthy ageing.
“These results have clinical significance, but for a permanent change, we need to see the effect of longer-term consumption.”
There is reason to hope that regular, daily consumption of blackcurrant extract could elicit sustained health benefits and aid cardiovascular function. Previous work by Professor Willems has found that intake periods of longer than seven days is even more beneficial for improving cardiovascular responses and lowering blood pressure in healthy individuals during exercise.
The study with older adults in Japan also measured blood serum lipids but found no changes, but the duration of the study is likely to have been too brief to have shown an effect.
The study, Effects of blackcurrant extract on arterial functions in older adults: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial, was accepted in the journal Clinical and Experimental Hypertension.