You won’t find this berry in your parfait, and you may have never even heard of it.
The berry you need to know about is from the Aronia family of shrubs, which are native to North America.
The best-known fruit of aronia are Aronia melanocarpa and Aronia prunifolia, known as black chokeberries due to their astringency. Their dark pigmentation is the result of an abundance of polyphenols that include flavonoids, anthocyanins, and proanthocyanins, which are potent antioxidants. Among berries, aronia is particularly high in these factors.(1)
Compared to elderberry, seven varieties of black and red currant, and six varieties of gooseberries, aronia has been shown in research to contain the highest total anthocyanin concentration and antioxidant capacity!(2)
Aronia & Cancer
Early investigation into the properties of aronia revealed that its flavonoids provided an anti-inflammatory effect.(3)
Interestingly, aronia's anti-inflammatory effect has been shown to be enhanced by the addition of selenium in research utilizing immune cells known as macrophages.(4)
In studies investigating the activity of aronia in human lymphocytes, inhibition of enzymes that activate promutagens has been shown.(5) In rats given the colon carcinogen azoxymethane, an anthocyanin-rich extract of aronia resulted in a reduction in aberrant crypt foci (an early change in the colon that may precede colon cancer) and colonic cell proliferation.(6)
In vitro research has found activity for aronia extract against treatment-sensitive and multidrug resistant leukemia cells.(7) In breast cancer patients, whose oxidative stress levels are increased in comparison with healthy individuals, aronia extract reduced the production of superoxide anion radicals in blood platelets, as well as in the platelets from a group of healthy individuals.(8)
Aronia Can Help Your Organs
Other research has found a reduction in experimentally induced pancreatitis among rodents that received aronia anthocyanins.(9) In rats given a liver-damaging compound, aronia natural fruit juice reduced signs of damage and inhibited the elevation of liver enzymes and malondialdehyde, a marker of oxidative stress.(10) Aronia berries have also shown a protective effect against damage caused by alcohol intake to the gastric mucosa, which could be of value to alcoholics.(11) Similar effects have been observed for aronia in the protection against gastric damage caused by the drug indomethacin which is accompanied by oxidative stress.(12)
Aronia for Athletes
Aronia also exerted a protective effect against oxidative damage to red blood cells in a group of athletes whose blood was tested before and after consuming the juice.(13) Aronia lowered thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS, a byproduct of lipid peroxidation) in comparison with levels measured in a control group, which suggests that anthocyanins may help limit exercise-induced oxidative damage. Other research involving elite triathletes given aronia-citrus juice found reduced indicators of oxidative damage and a potential positive association with DNA repair.(14)
Aronia Combats Metabolic Syndrome
In diabetic humans, ingestion of aronia juice over a three-month period resulted in lower fasting blood glucose, hemoglobin A1c, and total cholesterol.(15) In metabolic syndrome patients, two months of supplementation with aronia anthocyanins resulted in a decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure as well as red blood cell membrane cholesterol.(16)
Another study involving metabolic syndrome patients found decreased platelet aggregation and a reduction in the overall potential for clot formation after one month of supplementation with aronia extract.(17)
Additionally, in vitro research suggests that an extract of aronia can protect against increased clot formation caused by elevated homocysteine levels.(18)
Among men with high cholesterol, aronia anthocyanins increased the activities of the endogenous antioxidant enzymes glutathione peroxidase and catalase while decreasing red blood cell levels of potentially toxic lead and aluminum.(19)
In research involving coronary artery rings derived from animals, aronia extract protected against the loss of endothelium-dependent vasorelaxation following exposure to reactive oxygen species.(20)
In human aortic endothelial cells, administration of aronia extract prior to treatment with tumor necrosis factor-alpha protected against inflammation by inhibiting cell adhesion molecules, nuclear factor-kappa beta (NF-KB) activation, and reactive oxygen species production.(21)
Aronia Offers Hope in Heart Disease
When tested in a double-blind trial of heart attack survivors treated with statin drugs for at least six months, aronia flavonoid extract given for six weeks was associated with a reduction in markers of inflammation and systolic and diastolic blood pressure, suggesting its use for secondary prevention of ischemic heart disease.(22) Recent experimental research which found that aronia juice retarded age-related changes in the aortic wall has led researchers to conclude that aronia "can be recommended as a prophylactic tool for healthy aging."(23)
Aronia Fights Infections
Like cranberry and blueberry juices, aronia juice has been found to have a preventive effect against urinary tract infection (UTI).(24) The finding suggests potential usefulness of aronia juice in skilled nursing homes, where UTIs require frequent administration of antibiotic drugs.
Other research suggests that aronia's ellagic acid and myricetin content may be protective against infection with influenza viruses.(25)
While much of the aronia research has been conducted in Europe, Americans are catching on. Aronia can be found in multi-berry and other supplements, and the juice can now be found on the shelves of natural food stores.
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