Blackcurrants role in recovery of athletes

According to New Zealand research, blackcurrants may help athletes recover from the impact of exercise.

A preliminary study by the New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research found signs that an extract derived from New Zealand-grown blackcurrants, taken before and after exercise, could minimise muscle damage and inflammation, and support a healthy immune system.

New Zealand blackcurrants contain high levels of the antioxidants, anthocyanins

Researchers led by Roger Hurst have yet to determine exactly which blackcurrant compounds are responsible for the effects, but are looking closely at the role of flavonoid within the fruit.

Flavonoid are antioxidants, which include anthocyanins – the compounds that give blackcurrants their black-red colour. New Zealand-grown blackcurrants are known to contain high levels of anthocyanins, which may be linked to the cultivars grown here, or to environmental conditions.

While exercise was universally agreed to be healthy, extreme exercise — such as intense pre-event training — could have some drawbacks, including lowering the body’s immune defenses and the increasing risk of muscle damage, says Dr Hurst.

His study looked at untrained individuals undergoing moderate exercise. It found that those who took the blackcurrant extract had lower markers linked to muscle damage and inflammation and an increased immune response.

The positive link between blackcurrants and exercise had been previously highlighted in Japan studies linked to sustained computer use and keyboard typing, with the Japanese research flagging the potential of blackcurrants to reduce lactic acid build-up in muscles.

“We know we’re on the right track in our belief that fruit extracts, combined with exercise, can have a beneficial effect on human health,” said Plan business manager for food innovations, Karl Crawford.

The paper, published in the American Journal of Physiology, generated strong interest from the industry and highlighted new areas for further research.

Compounds found in blackcurrants could minimise muscle damage and inflammation, and support a healthy immune system, if taken before and after exercise.

  • Lyall, K. A., Hurst, S. M., Cooney, J., Jensen, D., Lo, K., Hurst, R. D., & Stevenson, L. M. (2009). Short-term blackcurrant extract consumption modulates exercise-induced oxidative stress and lipopolysaccharide-stimulated inflammatory responses. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 297(1), R70-R81. Retrieved from