A new study by scientists at Plant & Food Research (New Zealand) in collaboration with Northumbria University (UK), published in the Functional Foods journal has determined that New Zealand blackcurrants increase accuracy, attention and mood.The study participants consist of 36 healthy adults aged between 18 and 35 years who consumed a 250ml drink prior to conducting a set of demanding mental performance assessments. The participants consumed either a sugar and taste-matched placebo (no blackcurrant), an anthocyanin-enriched New Zealand blackcurrant extract (Delcyan™ from Just the Berries) or a cold-pressed juice from the New Zealand blackcurrant cultivar ‘Blackadder’, bred by Plant & Food Research.
The research findings revealed that juice from a specific cultivated New Zealand blackcurrant, ‘Blackadder’, reduced the activity of a family of enzymes called monoamine oxidases, which regulate serotonin and dopamine concentrations in the brain, improving attention and mood and reducing mental fatigue.
These chemicals are known to affect mood and cognition, and are the focus for treatments of both neurodegenerative symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease and mood disorders, including stress and anxiety.
“This study is the first to look at the effects of berry consumption on the cognitive performance of healthy young adults,” says Dr. Arjan Scheepens, the Plant & Food Research scientist who led the study. “Our previous research has suggested that compounds found in certain berryfruit may act like monoamine oxidase inhibitors, similar to a class of pharmaceuticals commonly used in the treatment of both mood disorders and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease. This research has shown that New Zealand-grown blackcurrants not only increase mental performance, but also reduce the activity of monoamine oxidases.”
“One of the key trends in the food industry is the development of ingredients and foods that have beneficial effects on human health,” says professor Roger Hurst, Science Group Leader Food & Wellness at Plant & FoodResearch. “Understanding what, and how, foods affect mental performance could lead to the development of new foods designed for populations or situations where mental performance or mental decline is a factor, such as older people or those suffering from stress, anxiety or other mood disorders. This research shows how New Zealand blackcurrants can potentially add value, both for the food industry and for people looking for foods that naturally support their own health aspirations.”
Anthony W. Watson, Crystal F. Haskell-Ramsay, David O. Kennedy, Janine M. Cooney, Tania Trower, Arjan Scheepens. Acute supplementation with blackcurrant extracts modulates cognitive functioning and inhibits monoamine oxidase-B in healthy young adults. Journal of Functional Foods, 2015; 17: 524 DOI: 10.1016/j.jff.2015.06.005