Is Maqui the Greatest Superberry?

The Maqui berry (Aristotelia chilensis) is a high antioxidant fruit with an ORAC value that exceeds those of the Acai berry, Goji berry, Noni and Mangosteen products. This berry, also known as the Macal berry, is one of a growing number of recently discovered super foods used for centuries by native Indians – in this case the Mapuche Indians of the Patagonia region in South America. The Maqui berry is believed to increase strength and stamina, and is used by the Indians to treat a range of ailments and diseases. It has also been shown to promote weight loss.

The Maqui is a plant of the Elaeocarpaceae family that grows in Chile and Argentina. It is a small evergreen tree which reaches a height of up to 4 meters. The flowers are green colored and large. The purple Maqui berry fruits are 4 to 6 mm in diameter and contain 4 to 8 angular seeds.

Antioxident content of the Maqui berry

Free radicals are atoms or molecules with an unpaired electron. These unstable radicals collide with other molecules in an attempt to gain an electron, starting a chain reaction and damaging cells. Free radicals are produced in the body as a byproduct from metabolic functions, such as food digestion and breathing. The body produces natural antioxidant enzymes to help fight these free radicals. However, factors such as the aging process, the toxic environment, stressful life-style, all contribute additional free radicals that the body cannot cope with. It is well established that high levels of free radical damage can lead to health problems.

Antioxidants are key to good health and longevity. They are free radical scavengers and function by donating an electron to, and binding with, the free radical. Antioxidants contain an extra oxygen molecule and are able to neutralize free radicals before they can do any harm. As the body ages, cells become less well able to deal with free radicals and organs begin to degenerate. The body has built-in defense mechanisms to protect itself from free radical damage, but eventually, aging depletes the body’s ability to keep oxidants at bay. The Maqui berry is packed with antioxidants called anthocyanins. These compounds are produced by plants for protection against ultraviolet irradiation and disease.

Developed by food nutrition researchers at Tufts University, the ORAC test measures a food’s ability to neutralize free radicals. The antioxidant power of each fruit or vegetable is measured in Trolox equivalent units (u mole TE/gram). Nutritionists recommend an intake of at least 3,000 ORAC units per day. Most individuals on an average diet get only 1,200 ORAC units or less per day. Maqui berries have a higher ORAC value (certified by Brunswick Laboratories) than other berries or fruit. Its nearest competitor is the Acai berry (see table below).

Berry type

ORAC value

(u mole TE/gram)

Anthocyanin content (mg/100 grams)

Acai (Powder)

185-310

319

Maqui (Powder)

750-920

4000-5000

Maqui (Juice)

400-800

800-2200

Health benefits of the Maqui berry

Fresh Maqui berries and infusions of Maqui leaves have long been used in native medicine by Mapuche Indians to treat different ailments. The anthocyanins in Maqui berries protects low density lipoproteins from oxidation, and are believed to reduce inflammation and help to protect cells from oxidative stress. Maqui berries are traditionally used to boost strength and stamina and to treat ailments such as sore throat, diarrhea, ulcers and fever. The berries are also claimed to have anti-aging, anti-cancer, and natural COX-2 inhibiting activities.

Research has linked inflammation to the over expression of a protein molecule called nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kappaB). NF-kappaB acts like a switch to turn on genes that produce the body’s inflammatory responses. Because NF-kappaB’s expression increases with age methods are now being sought to modulate NF-kappaB and its inflammatory effects on the body. Recent scientific studies suggest that by inhibiting NF-kappaB, secretion of an enzyme known as cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) can also be reduced. COX-2 inhibition may play an important role in promoting healthy joint function, normal cell growth in the colon, pancreas breast tissue, and other organ systems.

There is substantial evidence to suggest that edible soft-fleshed berry fruits can have beneficial effects against several types of human cancers. The anticancer potential of berries has been associated with, at least in part, a range of bioactive phytochemicals including polyphenols (flavonoids, proanthocyanidins, ellagitannins, gallotannins, phenolic acids), stilbenoids, lignans, and triterpenoids. Studies have demonstrated that the anticancer effects of berry bioactives are partially related to their abilities to counteract, reduce, and repair damage resulting from oxidative stress and inflammation. In addition, berry bioactives also regulate carcinogen and xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes, various transcription and growth factors, inflammatory cytokines, and subcellular signaling pathways of cancer cell proliferation, apoptosis, and tumor angiogenesis.

Maqui berry and weight loss

More recently, a clinical study on the efficacy of the Maqui berry as a weight loss supplement was carried out at the University of Texas in Austin. The study consisted of 500 subjects. The subjects were allocated into 3 different groups. One group was given two doses of Maqui Berry every day. Another group was given 2 doses of Acai berry (another so called super berry) daily. The final group was put on a strict diet and exercise program, without either berry.

The study was concluded after a 6 month observation period. Subjects given either the Acai berry or the strict dieting/exercise regiment had lost weight. However, subjects who had taken the Maqui berry had lost almost 400% more weight that the other 2 groups, and almost all of this was fat. Participants in the study were brought back 6 months later for follow-up; 92% of those that had been given Maqui berry had managed to keep the weight off. In contrast, only 46% of the other two groups had been able to maintain the weight loss that they had achieved during the study.

Dosage of the Maqui berry

Maqui berries are traditionally eaten as a food or drunk as a juice. There are no official guidelines on the proper dosage of Maqui. The therapeutic daily dose of anthocyanins, and other flavonoids from other sources, ranges from 200 to 1500mg. This dose may be extrapolated to Maqui berry powder. Manufactures of Maqui berry juice recommend one tablespoon a day. This should deliver 3000-4000 ORAC units in line with the daily recommended allowance of 3000 ORAC units.

Side effects of the Maqui berry

Active marketing of the Maqui berry in the US and Europe did not commence until recently (2008). The plant has not received FDA approval for human consumption. Having said that, the Maqui berry has been consumed for centuries in South America without apparent ill effect. As far as we are aware no reported side effects have been recorded by Maqui users in the West.

Composition of the Maqui berry

Maqui berry is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and calcium, iron and potassium.

Phytochemicals contained in the Maqui berry include: Anthocyanins, Delphinidin, Malvidin, Petunidin, Cumarins, Triterpenes, Flavonoids and Cyanidin.

Flavonoids in the Maqui Berry include: Quercitin

Alkaloids in Maqui leaves include: Makonin, Aristotelinone, Aristoteline, Aristotelone, Aristotelinine, and Aristone.

Anthocyanins in the Maqui berry include: Delfinidin-3-glucoarabinoside-5-glucoside, Delfinidin 3,5-diglucoside, Cyanidin-3-glucoarabinoside-5-glucoside, Cyanidine 3,5-diglucoside, Delfinidin 3-glucoarabinoside, Delfinidin 5-glucoarabinoside, Delfinidin 3-glucoside, Cyanidin 3-glucoarabinoside, Cyanidin 3-glucoside. The principal anthocyanin is delphinidin 3-sambubioside-5-glucoside (34% of total anthocyanins). The average total anthocyanin content is 130 mg/100g of fresh fruit.

See also: Super Berries

Disclaimer: Statements and material on this website have not been evaluated by the FDA. This website and its contents are intended for information purposes only, and not meant to diagnose any disease, or recommend treatments.