Maqui Berry: Super Fruit or Super Fad?
The term “superfruit” has been used a lot lately in reference to a number of foods, especially berries. From acai to goji, we’ve been led to believe these fruits contain such powerful properties as cancer-fighting antioxidants and weight loss solutions. Now, the newest and supposedly greatest superfruit has once more been named, and this time it’s the maqui berry.
If you’re anything like me, you’re wondering what the maqui berry is. This small, intensely purple fruit grows wild throughout parts of southern Chile and has been consumed by Chileans for generations. Along roads and highways, maqui berry bushes are easy to spot. Because this fruit is so plentiful on hillsides, in fields, and along the borders of forested areas, it is not presently cultivated.
One of the maqui berry’s greatest attributes is its rich levels of anthocyanins, which are responsible for the fruit’s rich purple color. These “colors” are high in antioxidants, but even more importantly, the maqui has the highest known concentration of “Delphinidins” in any fruit. These compounds, which are also found in violas and Concord grapes, demonstrate potent anti-inflammatory activity. Therefore, they're believed to help reduce the risk of a variety of degenerative diseases that involve inflammation – including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and arthritis – and also inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells.
Maqui Berries and Weight Loss
Like its predecessors in the “superfruit” category, intake of maqui berries or their juice is also thought to assist with weight control. The fruit causes a significant increase of insulin in the body, which means consuming it with or after meals can help to suppress blood glucose levels. In effect, this may even out energy levels and prevent the formation of new fat cells, thereby helping people to lose or maintain weight.
But can one fruit really do all of this?
The answer to this question is difficult, because the maqui berry has only recently gained mainstream attention. And you may recall the Amazon’s acai berry was supposed to offer many of the same benefits. Touted as nearly a cure-all, the acai berry can still be found in “healthy living” drinks, cosmetics, and other formulas designed to help you live longer and better.
Here's what The New York Times had to say:
"Despite the attention, there is little to back up the extravagant claims made on behalf of acai. While the berry does contain antioixdants – molecules that can slow damage caused by the oxidation of other substances in the body – there are no long-term studies proving that acai removes wrinkles or, as the various detoxification products claim, cleanses the body of toxins. Nor is there evidence to support dieters’ hopes for a magic fruit."
So, scientists question whether the little purple maqui berry can deliver all of the promised results. Dieters need to be particularly aware, as healthful products that allegedly contain maqui can already be found in plentiful number on the Internet. While consuming this fruit in its natural state or as a supplement may indeed be beneficial for health, it’s doubtful anyone can expect to see the benefits that marketers describe.
The Mapuche native people have been eating maqui berries and drinking their juice for centuries. Other non-native people in Chile have done the same for a very long time as well. The maqui is thus considered safe, although people report that eating the fruit in its raw state turns their mouths blue.