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Maqui Berry Extract May Help Type 2 Diabetes

Maqui berries grow in the rainforests of Chile

If you had to quickly name the different types of berries you have ever eaten, chances are the maqui berry would not be on your list. However, results of a new study published in Food Chemistry indicate it might be the berry to explore if you have type 2 diabetes.

What is special about the maqui berry?

The maqui berry (Aristotelia chilensis), also known as the Chilean wineberry, is a deep purple fruit that is native to Chile and southern Argentina, where it grows wild in great abundance. According to Chris Kilham, renowned medicine hunter and ethnobotanist who teaches at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the native Mapuche Indians harvest tons of maqui berries for the growing commercial market.

One reason the maqui berry market is growing is the fruit’s reported health benefits, which are believed to be related to its high content of plant pigments called anthocyanins, and more specifically, delphinidins. Kilham noted that delphinidins have demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties and that maqui berries appear to cause a significant increase of insulin in the body.

In a recent study conducted by researchers from Rutgers University and North Carolina State University, the potential benefits of maqui berries for type 2 diabetes were explored. For a period of seven weeks, obese diabetic mice on a high-fat diet were supplemented with maqui berry extract.

At the end of the seven weeks, the investigators found that using maqui berries improved both fasting blood glucose levels and glucose tolerance. In particular, the researchers looked at specific anthocyanins, delphinidin 3-sambobioside-5-glucoside (D3S5G), and discovered another benefit.

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D3S5G demonstrated insulin-like effects in muscles and in the liver cells of the mice, which could at least partly explain the anti-diabetic effect observed in the study. The findings in this study indicate that “further investigations into the effects of [maqui extract] on the glucose metabolism of type 2 diabetes patients will need to be completed for the most effective use of [the anthocyanin-rich formulation] for the treatment and prevention of the disease.”

More about maqui berries

The anthocyanins in maqui berries also make the fruit rich in antioxidants, which suggests they can help reduce the risk of various diseases associated with free-radical damage, such as cardiovascular disease. The anti-inflammatory abilities of maqui berries may also make them helpful in inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and heart disease.

A new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported on the first database on antioxidants found in fruits in the south Andes region of South America. Of the more than 120 species/varieties of fruits, the maqui berries were among the top three fruits in terms of total antioxidant and ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) values.

Although not as popular as blueberries, cranberries, or raspberries, all of which also contain anthocyanins, the maqui berry is becoming more familiar as its potential health benefits come to light. For now, this latest study suggests maqui berry extract may help both fasting blood glucose levels and glucose tolerance in people with type 2 diabetes.

Kilham C. Maqui berry: The newest superfruit. 2011 Jan. 27.
Rojo LE et al. In vitro and in vivo anti-diabetic effects of anthocyanins from maqui berry (Aristotelia chilensis). Food Chemistry 2012 Mar 15; 131(2): 387-96
Speisky H et al. First web-based database on total phenolics and oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) of fruits produced and consumed within the South Andes region of South America. J Agric Food Chem 2012 Apr 27

Image: Wikimedia Commons