Blueberries hasten muscle recovery

As seen on One News

London fruit sellers may want to stock up on New Zealand blueberries after a study found athletes who eat them recover faster from exercise.

Plant & Food Research and Massey University School of Sport and Exercise scientists have worked on the research, which has just been published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

Massey’s head of Sport and Exercise Science Dr Steve Stannard says the findings could help Olympians and other athletes return to peak performance faster after strenuous exercise.

The team used a novel method that compared one leg of a participant to the other leg. “We put the study participants on a Biodex machine and had them work the thigh of one leg very hard to damage the muscle,” Dr Stannard says. “They did 300 maximal eccentric contractions, which causes micro-trauma to the muscle’s fibres.”

In the first part of the study, participants were given blueberry smoothies before, during, and for two days after the exercise strength tests, and blood samples were taken to monitor the leg’s recovery. Several weeks later, the exercise was repeated on the other leg, but a smoothie without blueberries, and therefore with a different polyphenol content, was consumed instead. Ten female participants were involved in the study.

The blood samples showed eating the blueberries, although possessing a similar total antioxidant content as the control, produced a higher level of antioxidant defence in the blood. This was associated with improved rate of recovery in the first 36 hours in one particular measure of muscle performance.

Dr Stannard says it is not yet clear exactly why the blueberries help. “But it is probably linked to the superior anthocyanin content of the New Zealand blueberry fruit interacting with and assisting the body’s natural antioxidant mechanisms,” he says.

The team used New Zealand blueberries in the study, sourced from Northland. “For me the attraction of this study is that we’re using a real food,” he says. “It’s not a pill or a supplement, it’s fruit, grown in New Zealand and available at any shop.”

Plant & Food Research scientist Dr Roger Hurst says the study has come about from a building relationship with Massey’s School of Sport and Exercise in which further research on the benefits of blueberries for exercise is being undertaken.

“There is a huge amount of research still to be done. But this work is giving a wonderful indicator and we expect these exciting findings to further boost the desirability of New Zealand blueberries.”

Pipfruit breeding still producing premium pears

Plant & Food Research’s Pipfruit breeding programme has been running for more than 60 years.  Pictured above is an as yet unnamed pear variety simply called PremP109, a new potential cultivar recently expanded into commercial production through PREVAR and AIGN.

Plant & Food Research has around unique 80 pears trees like PremP109 within our Motueka research orchard, and more planted in at our Hawke’s Bay site. Promising new varieties bred on our research orchards are trialled with local growers as a means of researching how they act within a commercial orchard environment. The photo above shows fruit just before harvest.  PremP109 fruit from this property and another are being exported for the second year to Asian and Europe and are currently fetching good returns for the growers.

NZ horticulture exports close to $3.5 billion

New Zealand’s horticulture industry now accounts for $1 in every $13 of exports, with an annual value of close to $3.5 billion.

According to Fresh Facts, the annual publication outlining New Zealand’s horticultural facts and figures, horticultural exports in the year to 30 June 2011 totalled $3.46 billion, an increase of 3% on the previous year. Produce from New Zealand’s horticultural industries is now calculated to be worth a total $6.4 billion annually.

“Horticultural exports have been steadily increasing since the 1970s, and are now worth more than $3 billion,” says Peter Landon-Lane, CEO of Plant & Food Research. “New Zealand is known globally as a supplier of premium horticultural products. Our wine sector has had huge success in growing the popularity of Sauvignon blanc, due to its unique flavours. Similarly, our fruit sector is known for introducing novel products with great taste profiles. Added to this, our production systems are known to exceed sustainability and phytosanitary requirements. This innovation and diversification has allowed us to create and maintain a premium in the global marketplace.”

Fresh Facts has been produced annually since 1999 by Plant & Food Research with support from Horticulture New Zealand. Copies of the publication can be found at

Key facts:

  • New Zealand’s horticultural exports are valued at $3.5 billion, 7.5% of total exports
  • The value of horticultural exports has doubled since 2000
  • Wine is New Zealand’s largest horticultural export, valued at $1.1 billion
  • Fresh fruit exports are valued at $1.5 billion, including close to $1 billion of kiwifruit
  • Vegetable exports are valued at $614 million – $270 million of fresh vegetables (primarily onions and squash) and $344 million of processed vegetables (mostly potatoes, peas and sweetcorn)
  • Australia is the largest export destination, receiving $756 million of New Zealand’s horticultural produce, close to 5 times the produce received in 2000. Other key destinations include Japan, the UK, the USA and Europe.