In Pakistan, India and the UK, blackcurrants offer a wealth of health benefits and thrive in our climate. Yet, they remain an underutilized fruit. While we often celebrate strawberries during July and August, the darker, sharper, and distinctly British blackcurrant also comes into season. Despite an annual blackcurrant harvest of 13,000 tonnes in the UK, most of them are not consumed fresh but are instead used for commercially produced cordial.
Fresh blackcurrants are nutritional powerhouses, containing four times the amount of Vitamin C found in oranges and being rich in antioxidants. Furthermore, blackcurrants show promise for medicinal purposes. Studies are exploring their potential in areas such as blood pressure regulation and cognitive health, with powders and extracts being tested.
Could blackcurrants improve sexual health? Aedín Cassidy, a professor at Queen’s University Belfast, has researched whether blackcurrants could benefit men with erectile dysfunction. Flavonoids, including anthocyanins responsible for the fruit’s purple color, can enhance blood flow by increasing artery flexibility and dilating blood vessels. In a large study tracking over 25,000 men for 10 years, consuming three or more servings a week of anthocyanin-rich berries, including blackcurrants, was associated with a 19% lower risk of erectile dysfunction compared to those who didn’t consume these foods. Anthocyanins have also shown potential for heart health, cognitive function, and conditions like Parkinson’s disease.
Professor Mark Willems from the University of Chichester has conducted studies on the benefits of blackcurrants, particularly in concentrated extract form. He emphasizes that blackcurrants offer unique advantages not found in other berries. Research has shown that blackcurrant extract can reduce the stiffness of blood vessels in elderly individuals, improving blood pressure over time. The powder may also aid muscle recovery after exercise, benefiting both elite athletes and moderately active adults.
Surprisingly, blackcurrants might even help improve body odor. A small study indicated that consuming blackcurrant concentrate for seven days reduced the gases responsible for the “old people smell” released through the skin in individuals over 45. The antioxidant effects of blackcurrants likely contribute to this effect, as oxidative stress with age can produce unwanted odours.
However, there are limitations to consider. Blackcurrant concentrates can be expensive and may not be accessible to everyone. They are not a panacea for all health issues, and claims about their effectiveness for weight management should be approached with caution. Much of the research is still in its early stages, requiring longer trials and consideration of various factors like ethnicity.