Blackcurrants for your brain

Blackcurrants (Ribes nigrum) have been a domesticated crop for around 400-500 years in Europe. The modern-day blackcurrant varieties are significantly different from their wild ancestors as they have been bred for their deep purple colour. This deep purple colour comes from a high level of pigments called anthocyanins. Of course, these anthyocyanins are highly antioxidant and a new study has shown that New Zealand blackcurrants, and probably all blackcurrants, are good for your brain.

Blackcurrants arrived in New Zealand in the 1820s with early European settlers. The high pectin levels in the berries meant they were perfect for making jams and jellies, and the leaves and stems were used for teas. Now a new study coming from New Zealand has suggested that blackcurrants are much more than a breakfast condiment.

In the study adults aged between 18 and 35 years consumed 250 mls of one of three drinks; either a placebo that was sugar and taste-matched to blackcurrant, an anthocyanin-enriched New Zealand blackcurrant extract, or the cold-pressed juice of the New Zealand “blackadder” blackcurrant cultivar.

The participants then undertook a series of tests that required high levels of mental performance.

The results showed that after consuming both of the blackcurrant drinks the people had improved mood, accuracy on tasks, and attention while mental fatigue was reduced. The juice of the blackadder blackcurrants was also shown to reduce the activity of monoamine oxidase (MAO) enzymes which control serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain. A class of pharmaceutical drugs called MAO-inhibitors act in this way and are used to treat depression and conditions like Parkinsons Disease.

It seems if you add some blackcurrants to your diet then the future of your brain will be anything but black.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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