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​​​​​​​Sea buckthorn berries: Bioactive-rich ‘superfruit’ holds commercial potential

Article-​​​​​​​Sea buckthorn berries: Bioactive-rich ‘superfruit’ holds commercial potential

© iStock/schankz Sea buckthorn berries: Bioactive-rich ‘superfruit’ shows diabetes and obesity potential
Sea buckthorn berries are a source of antioxidants with a unique nutritional profile that gives them commercial potential as a bioactive-rich ‘superfruit’, say Canadian researchers.

Their findings highlighted the presence of key polyphenolic compounds in sea buckthorn pomace and seeds, each boasting potential health benefits, from cardiovascular protection to anti-inflammatory properties.

Importantly, geographical factors influence the polyphenolic profile of sea buckthorn berries; the researchers identified several distinct compounds with enhanced bioactivity that are only contained in the sea buckthorn cultivar grown in Newfoundland.

Moreover, sea buckthorn extracts demonstrated promising in vitro antidiabetic and anti-obesity potential, paving the way for further investigation into their mechanisms and potential therapeutic applications.

“This is a first step in understanding how sea buckthorn polyphenols can modulate our physiology in a beneficial manner,said study author Renan Danielski, a PhD student at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada.

Future research needs to focus on understanding the mechanisms behind those effects and further experimentation using animal models and humans.

“If these effects are confirmed in vivo, we can envision the use of sea buckthorn polyphenols for therapeutic and pharmacological purposes, aiding in the prevention and treatment of diabetes, obesity, and many other conditions.”

Rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, vitamins A, B, and E, and polyphenols

Sea buckthorn, a deciduous, thorny plant found along the coasts of north-western Europe as well as temperate regions of central Asia, was introduced to Canda in the early 2000s following research by governmental agencies into the crop's commercial potential.

Its berries and leaves are widely used for their nutritional, pharmaceutical, and functional properties. Sea buckthorn oil is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, vitamins A, B, and E, and polyphenols.

The study, which was published in the Society of Chemical Industry’s Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, highlights the shrub’s untapped potential in North America. 

Danielski said: “Sea buckthorn is a unique crop with vast potential for utilisation. Popular in Asia and north-western Europe, there is an opportunity to replicate this success in North America by leveraging the unique qualities of locally grown varieties.

Sea buckthorn berries grown in Canada ‘showed promising health benefits

Motivated by the experimental status and limited commercialisation of sea buckthorn in North America to date, the researchers set out to characterise the unique composition of polyphenols, a class of compounds with antioxidative properties, in Canadian cultivars. 

“Understanding how our cultivar compares globally can help communicate the benefits to consumers and establish a market presence, said lead author Fereidoon Shahidi, professor of biochemistry at the Memorial University of Newfoundland.

The researchers hope that their findings might pave the way for harnessing sea buckthorn berries as a valuable source of natural antioxidants in North America.

© iStock/strekozza77 Bioactive-rich ‘superfruit’ shows diabetes and obesity potential

As consumer interest in functional foods and nutraceuticals continues to grow, sea buckthorn presents itself as a sustainable and health-enhancing option, they argue.

“Sea buckthorn berries grown in Canada showed promising health benefits induced by their rich and diverse polyphenolic profile and need to be considered for further commercial expansion as a bioactive-loaded superfruit,” the study authors concluded.