Scientists at the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research (IPFR) are probing the global potential of a range of fruits, from kiwi to apples and berries. "There is a health halo around gold kiwi fruit in terms of boosting immune strength," said professor Margot Skinner, IPFR principal scientist.
IPFR is also investigating red-fleshed fruits for the anthocyanins [strong antioxidants] they contain. Many of the cultivars the researchers are studying are unique to New Zealand.
"In our Wellness Foods programme the health benefits of fresh and processed fruit-based functional foods has been investigated with an emphasis on possible synergies between different fruits and fruit components," said Skinner in a recent abstract.
IPFR recently won funding to research the use of fruit-based ingredients to induce feelings of satiety as a means of controlling food consumption.
Companies processing fruits, including winemakers, could turn waste product into a lucrative sideline, given their nutraceutical properties, said Skinner. IPFR is investigating fruit- and plant-based ingredients to boost everything from mental performance and gut health to circulatory and immune function.
One aspect uncovered by IPFR's research so far is that less is often more for fruit-based functional drinks designed to boost rapid visual information processing. "From the data, a drink containing a low dose polyphenol [a potent antioxidant] is more effective than a high dose one," said Skinner.
IPFR had also recently tested fruit purées and juices on mice, she said. "The purée could boost antibody response to antigens, but a juice could not." One theory proposed that this was because purées contained more fibre and a higher level of carotenoids.