Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health senior research scientist Dr Abdul-Lateef Molan and his team conducted a trial with 45 healthy volunteers who took blackcurrant products for four weeks.
He found that consumption of the blackcurrant products improved gut health by increasing the numbers of good bacteria.
“The improvement was significant in many ways,” Dr Molan says. “Firstly, there was an increase in the number of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, both of which are beneficial to gut health. Secondly, there was a reduction in the population sizes of some pathogenic bacteria such as Clostridium spp. and Bacteriodes spp. Thirdly, consumption of the products led to a significant reduction in the activity of Beta-glucuronidase. Lastly, there was also a lowering of fecal pH.”
Beta-glucuronidase is a bacterial enzyme that is thought to increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
Dr Molan says these findings show that taking blackcurrant products can offer significant health benefits, as they act as prebiotic agents. His research was funded from $170,000 from Four Leaf Japan Co Ltd, which was announced in February 2009. The company markets the product, known as First Leaf, in Japan. First Leaf contains CAM30, a blackcurrant extract, which is made near Palmerston North by Just The Berries.
Dr Molan will now conduct further research to see whether the blackcurrant products can be used to treat colon carcinogenesis. “Also, as beta-glucuronidase is known to prevent the body from detoxifying more potent forms of estrogen, we need to find out whether these products can also help reduce instances of breast cancer,” he says.