Juicy Blackcurrant Research

Juicy research pinpoints New Zealand blackcurrant role in diabetes prevention

With diabetes being Kiwi’s fastest growing health issue, registered nutritionist Sheena Hendon reports on the finding of juicy new research pinpointing New Zealand blackcurrant’s potential role in the treatment of this serious, yet preventable disease.

Do you know of someone close to you – a family member or friend who has diabetes or pre-diabetes? The odds are that you do because the number of New Zealanders living with diabetes has doubled from 125,000 to 250,000 in the past ten years, with 40 new diabetes diagnoses every day. It is estimated a further 1.1 million Kiwis – that’s 1 in 4 all adults, have pre-diabetes and a high risk of developing the condition. Serious stuff!

Diabetes is New Zealand’s largest and fastest growing health issue, with an estimated direct cost to the country of $1.3 million per year. And together with  heart disease, both conditions are responsible for the deaths of more New Zealanders each year than smoking!

Needless to say, the race is on to find ways to prevent or delay diabetes, and that is why, once again, research highlighting the amazing nutritional and therapeutic benefits of NZ blackcurrants, and pinpointing their potential role in reducing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is so exciting.

Evidence-based research makes the link between NZ blackcurrant intake and reduced diabetes risk

Scientists at the UK Universities of Chichester and Worcester worked in collaboration to measure the effects of supplementing with New Zealand blackcurrant powder on insulin and glucose levels – key measures of blood sugar control and diabetes. Healthy, non-diabetic adults ingested the same amount of blackcurrant powder for seven days and then fasting insulin and glucose levels were measured over a period of 2 hours, as well as glucose loading amounts before and after the study.

The researchers illustrated that those who had the 7-day intake of NZ Blackcurrant powder had significantly lower blood insulin and glucose levels than those not taking this berry powder. These results indicated that the NZ blackcurrants seemed to increase insulin sensitivity enabling blood sugars to clear more easily and hence, may reduce the risk of development of Type 2 diabetes in healthy individuals. Read more about Functional Foods and Health Disease 

So, how might NZ blackcurrants lower blood insulin and glucose levels?

Blackcurrants are well-known to be packed with a range of healthy compounds, including massive doses of the antioxidant, about four times more vitamin C than oranges and 16 times more than blueberries. They also contain polyphenols, particularly anthocyanins – compounds that give the berries their intense purple colour. New Zealand Blackcurrant varietals have very high anthocyanin levels, and it is this that potentially links them to positively affecting these diabetes markers and may underpin many of the berry’s other beneficial health properties.

The lower blood glucose levels seen in the study may be due to inhibition of certain chemical and enzyme reactions in the gut and pancreas by these anthocyanins, improving glucose uptake and absorption. However, more testing and research is necessary to be clear of the exact mechanisms.

Blackcurrants really do have amazing health benefits – they are packed with a range of healthy compounds, including massive doses of the antioxidant, vitamin C – about four times more vitamin C than oranges and 16 times more than blueberries. The value of vitamin C is already well understood to contribute to the reduction of tiredness, normal immune and psychological and neurological function, protection from free radical damage and more. They also contain high levels of polyphenols, particularly anthocyanins – compounds that give the berries their intense deep purple colour and may underpin many of their beneficial health properties.

The great news is that Barker’s is committed to supporting the health of Kiwis only use 100% NZ blackcurrants in our fruit syrups, juices and preserves. We are pleased to say that Barker’s Unsweetened Blackcurrant Juice contains 100% NZ grown squeezed Blackadder blackcurrant. In fact this health-packed juice contains 75g of polyphenols (including anthocyanins) and 30 mg of vitamin C In fact every 100 ml serve.

More about Diabetes

What is diabetes?

To understand the importance of this new research, it may help to understand more about diabetes.

Diabetes is an enduring disease that occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin, or when the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone made by part of the digestive system, called the pancreas that acts as a key to let glucose, which comes from carbohydrate food we eat, pass from the blood stream into the cells in the body to produce energy.

Everyone needs some glucose in their blood, but the level of glucose should not be too high. High glucose levels can damage your body over time. Pre-diabetes (also known as impaired glucose tolerance) occurs when the glucose (sugar) in your blood is higher than normal, but not high enough to be called diabetes.

There are three main types of diabetes – type 1, type 2 and gestational.

  • Type 1 diabetes is usually caused by an auto-immune reaction where the body’s defence system attacks the cells that produce insulin. People with type 1 diabetes produce very little or no insulin. People of any age can be affected, but it usually develops in children or young adults. People with type 1 diabetes need injections of insulin every day to control the levels of glucose in their blood.
  • Type 2 diabetes accounts for at least 90 per cent of all cases of diabetes. It can occur at any age and remain undetected for many years. Often people with type 2 diabetes can initially manage their condition through exercise and diet, however, over time some people will require oral drugs and or insulin.
There is a clear link between type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure (hypertension) and high levels of fats in the blood (the medical name for this is dyslipidaemia). This combination of diabetes with hypertension and dyslipidaemia is sometimes called ‘the Metabolic Syndrome’ or Syndrome X.

  • Gestational diabetes occurs when a pregnant woman has high levels of glucose in her blood. Gestational diabetes is temporary and usually, goes after pregnancy. However, a woman who has had gestational diabetes has a 50-60 per cent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

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