Maqui Berry Superfood from Chile Bursts with Anti-Aging Benefits

Maqui berry (pronounced “mah-kee”) is an evergreen shrub native to the rainforests of Chile and adjacent regions of southern Argentina. Its Latin name is Aristotelia chilensis.  The Maqui plant has greenish-white flowers that yield an edible fruit (maqui berry).  These small berries are 4 to 6 mm in diameter and a favoured food for birds. The maqui berry is also known as the Chilean wineberry, as it is used to colour wine in Chile.  It is also used to make jams and dark black or blue dyes.

Maqui is used in folklore medicine for improving digestion and increasing energy and stamina. It supports the elimination of wastes and toxins from the body, and has appetite-suppressant properties, making it useful as a weight management superfood.  It has also been used traditionally to treat skin conditions.

Maqui berries are extremely rich in antioxidants (molecules that neutralize free radicals, the damaging compounds produced by metabolism and exposure to toxins and radiation). Free radical damage causes most of the changes we associate with aging, and it can lead to inflammation, cardiovascular and nervous system damage, weak immune function, and cancerous changes in cells.

Antioxidants are able to neutralize free radicals. They come in many forms, a common form being phytonutrients (chemicals produced by plants that are food sources). The amount of antioxidant activity in a food or supplement can be determined by a test known as ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). The higher the ORAC score, the more potent the antioxidant activity. Incredibly, reputed food scientists rate Maqui’s ORAC value to be the highest among all berries.

The particular antioxidant compounds found in abundance in the Maqui berry are mainly flavonoids known as anthocyanins and polyphenols. Anthocyanins have some of the strongest physiological effects of any plant chemicals, and were found to have the strongest antioxidant activity of any flavonoids in one study. They are responsible for the deep colouration of the plants in which they occur and act as natural sunscreens, giving protection from the sun’s radiation. They also protect the plants containing them from biological threats such as bacteria, fungi, and parasites. When ingested by humans, anthocyanins provide anti-aging effects, promote cardiovascular health, reduce the likelihood of cancerous degeneration in cells, reduce allergic responses, and support healthy sugar-insulin metabolism.

The polyphenols in Maqui berry help reduce inflammation, promote cardiovascular health, offer additional protection against cancerous changes, and provide even more anti-aging impact.  Polyphenol compounds from Maqui berry may also affect carbohydrate metabolism. In vitro, these compounds exhibit non-competitive inhibition of the enzyme alpha-glucosidase, involved in the breakdown of carbohydrates to monosaccharides (single sugars). This ability of maqui to inhibit alpha-glucosidase (as demonstrated in preliminary research) suggests it may lower blood glucose levels, making it useful for diabetics.

A new product, just introduced to Canada, is Organic Traditions Freeze Dried Maqui Berry Powder. According to the distributor, Jerry Zeifman of Advantage Health Matters, “Freeze drying is 10 times more concentrated than regular drying, and protects the compounds from any heat damage.”

Organic Traditions’ Maqui Berry Powder is certified organic and available at fine health food stores, including the Big Carrot Wholistic Dispensary, 348 Danforth Ave., Toronto. For info call (416) 466-8432, or email: dispensary@thebigcarrot.ca

 

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