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Brazilian Native Fruit Trees Have Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant Properties
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Brazilian Native Fruit Trees Have Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant Properties

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Highlights
  • Five fruit trees native of Brazil have potential anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as those of blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, and strawberries
  • Native fruit trees have bioactive compounds and when consumed can benefit the health of people
  • The aim of this study is to grow these species by family farmers, to increase the production scale and later could be taken up by retailers

Five fruit trees that are native to the Atlantic Rainforest were found to have potential anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, reveals a study supported by the São Paulo Research Foundation.

The native Brazilian species such as araçá-piranga (E. leitonii), cereja-do-rio-grande (E. involucrata), e ubajaí (E. myrcianthes), grumixama (E. brasiliensis) are all from the genus Eugenia and bacupari-mirim (Garcinia brasiliensis), which are examples of functional foods.

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Apart from their nutritional values and the presence of vitamins, these species have bioactive properties like the capacity to combat free radicals, the presence of highly reactive atoms that bind to other atoms in the organism and cause cellular aging or disease.

"We knew they could contain a large number of anti-oxidants, just like the well-known berries of the US and Europe, such as the blueberry, blackberry, and strawberry, with which scientists are so familiar", told Severino Matias Alencar, from the Department of Agroindustry, Food & Nutrition at University of São Paulo's Luiz de Queiroz Agricultural College (ESALQ-USP).
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The research was conducted in partnership with the University of Campinas's Piracicaba Dentistry School (FOP-UNICAMP), both in Piracicaba, São Paulo State, Brazil and at the University of the Frontier (UFRO) in Temuco, Chile.

Benefits of Native Fruit Trees

The research team said that the native berries were found to be much better.

Pedro Rosalen, from FOP, said that diet plays a major role in combating free radicals. The body does contain substances that can neutralize and eliminate free radicals. However, the naturally occurring neutralization can sometimes be unbalanced with age, stress, and poor nutrition.

Even exogenous elements are essential, especially the foods that have anti-oxidant agents, like flavonoids or anthocyanins from araçá-piranga, E. Leitonii or other fruits of the Eugenias, explained Rosalen, who was the coordinator of the project "Bioprospection of novel anti-inflammatory molecules from natural Brazilian native products".

Anti-oxidants fight aging and also can prevent diseases that are mediated by chronic inflammation.

The oxidative action of free radicals can lead to dependent inflammatory diseases like obesity, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and Alzheimer's, which are all silent inflammations. Therefore the need for anti-oxidants.

Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant of Fruit Trees

The research team evaluated the phenolic compounds, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant mechanisms of the material extracted from the leaves, seeds, and pulp from the five fruits.

Fruits that had strong antioxidant activity and anti-inflammatory properties were included in this study, which was used by the food and pharmaceutical industries. E. Leitonii is the one that stands out, said Rosalen.

Rosalen said, "E. leitonii is an endangered species. Its anti-inflammatory activity far exceeded that of other Eugenias. The action mechanism is also fascinating. It occurs spontaneously and right at the start of the inflammation, blocking a specific pathway in the inflammatory process. It also acts on the endothelium of blood vessels, preventing leukocytes from transmigrating to the damaged tissue and reducing exacerbation of the inflammatory process."

Native Fruits could be the New Açaí?

As these species are rare and some are endangered, the samples for this study were provided by two small farms in the interior of São Paulo State. Both the farmers sell plants with the aim of conservation.

Brazil's largest native fruit collection is owned by one of the farmers with over 1,300 species under cultivation. Brazil has around 400 Eugenias, including several endemic species.

Rosalen said that they have a huge number of native fruit trees that have bioactive compounds, which can benefit the health of the people. However, these species need to be studied. It is a matter of time until these five fruits become as fashionable foods, said Alencar.

He also states that these fruits have a vast economic and pharmacological potential. There are scientific pieces of evidence that have been published. The fruits, wood and essential oils are sold and are used as ornamental plants.

Alencar said that not much scientific evidence is available on the properties of these native fruits.

The aim of this study is to grow these species by family farmers, to increase the production scale and later could be taken up by retailers.

He said that these species could be the next açaí, as Açaí puree is exported by Brazil to several countries.

Alencar also refers to the commercial success of the Amazonian berry Euterpe oleracea, which has significant amounts of anti-oxidants.

Collaborative Research

The collaborative research project that was supported by FAPESP and UFRO also extended knowledge on a Chilean native species.

In one of the studies, the anti-oxidant and vasodilatory action of Chilean guava (Ugni molinae) has been demonstrated by the research team. The food supplements were found to have beneficial effects in preventing and treating cardiovascular diseases.

If the knowledge about these properties is advertised, the production of these species could be stimulated, said Alencar.

Rosalen and Alencar have already studied these native fruit species, as they believed that the native fruit species could be a source of excellent food solutions for the society.

Reference
  1. Juliana Infante, Pedro Luiz Rosalen, Josy Goldoni Lazarini, et al. Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Activities of Unexplored Brazilian Native Fruits. PLOS ONE (2017). DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0152974


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