Fruit Juices Provide Health Benefits (cont.)

Research conducted in countries such as New Zealand, Japan, Sweden, and Finland has shown that black currants have many benefits. They have been shown to have twice the antioxidants of blueberries, four times the vitamin C of oranges, and twice the potassium of bananas. These overseas studies have also reported that black currants can lower blood pressure, improve skin disorders such as dermatitis and psoriasis, and improve eye function.

In this country, researchers at Tufts University found that anthocyanins and polyphenolics, compounds found in black currants (as in other deeply colored fruits), may help protect against Alzheimer's disease. The study was published in the January 2006 issue of Chemistry & Industry magazine.

"The juicy bottom that juices can be part of a healthy lifestyle"

Also new on the juice scene is Tahitian noni juice, made from a fruit grown only in tropical climates and first discovered by two food scientists in the 1990s. The U.S.-based company Tahitian Noni International now distributes juice (and other noni products) through direct sales in 35 countries and promotes the drink's antioxidant properties, its support to the immune system, and its ability to increase energy and physical performance levels.

In a literature review conducted by the University of Illinois College of Medicine, researchers cited a statistical clinical survey of noni's medicinal benefits undertaken by Neil Solomon, MD, PhD, former Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene for the State of Maryland. After reviewing results of 10,000 noni users, Solomon reported that noni possesses a variety of medical benefits including lessening of symptoms in cancer patients, significant drops in blood pressure, decrease in pain for those experiencing chronic pain, decrease of symptoms among heart patients, and more. Nearly all the data, however, comes from users of the company's juice, and the research project itself was supported by a grant from Morinda Inc., the parent company of Tahitian Noni International.

Same Benefits, Cheaper Price

Independent studies published in the scientific community have more validity than a company's own sponsored research, says nutrition consultant Carla McGill. But McGill acknowledges that we are discovering new substances in food -- and even new foods themselves -- all the time that do have beneficial effects. "As technology improves, as we find foods with which we have been unfamiliar, we continue to learn more."

Still, counters Shawn Talbott, PhD, chief scientific officer for SupplementWatch, for less money (Tahitian noni juice sells for $42/liter), you can find the same antioxidant, cancer-fighting, heart-protecting, and immune-boosting benefits in juices sold at your local grocery store.

"Yes, it is true that many of these exotic plants have a variety of antioxidants and polysaccharides - but so does EVERY plant and fruit juice. For every test tube study showing a chemical benefit of mangosteen or aloe or gac (as an antioxidant, immune stimulator, etc) - we can show the SAME effect in studies of other 'regular' plant extracts and juices (grape juice, orange juice, cranberry juice, tomato juice, etc.)," Talbott writes in his SupplementWatch newsletter.

The juicy bottom line, say the experts, is that juices can be part of a healthy lifestyle, especially when it's inconvenient or impractical to eat the whole fruit. But drinking more doesn't translate into more health benefits, so limit your juice to 1 serving a day (if you'd like to spread that out over the day, dilute a serving with sparkling water), make sure you stay well hydrated with other beverages like water, coffee, or tea (the latter two also have antioxidant properties), and don't make the mistake of thinking that a glass of juice takes the place of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.

Published Mar. 10, 2006.
Originally published Feb. 27, 2006.

SOURCES: Tufts Journal, Feb. 23, 2006. "The Magic of Juice." Wang, Ml. Acta Pharmacologica Sinica, Dec. 23, 2002; pp 1127-1141. WebMD Medical News: "Help for Soda Lovers." Michael Ozner, MD, president, American Heart Association of Miami; author, The Miami Mediterranean Diet: Lose Weight and Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease. Greg Quinn, president, The Currant Company, Clinton, N.Y. Brett West, director of research and development, Tahitian Noni International, Provo, Utah. Carla McGill, RD, nutrition consultant, Bradenton, Fla. Ann Kulze, MD, CEO, Just Wellness, LLC; author, Dr. Ann's 10-Step Diet: A Simple Plan for Permanent Weight Loss and Lifelong Vitality. Teff, K. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, June 2004; pp 2963-2972.

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Last Editorial Review: 3/10/2006