When it comes to our diet, we consumers are increasingly looking for healthiness and well-being. And this includes natural ingredients and food without artificial additives such as colorings, which, in addition to nourishing, provide something more, such as an additional portion of fiber, vitamins or antioxidants.
The frantic pace of modern life and its many aspects have affected the quality of life of people, who are beginning to be aware of the importance of food containing components that help to promote our health, thus enabling an improvement in nutritional status. And fruits are a good example of where we can find this additional pinch of health.
Brazil is the third largest fruit producer in the world, only behind of China and India. Among the Amazonian native fruits that present greater dynamics of production, marketing and introduction into the domestic and foreign markets are the açaí (Euterpe oleracea) and cupuaçu (Theobroma grandiflorum). Brazilian climatic conditions favor a great diversity of native tropical fruit species, such as buriti (Mauritia flexuosa), a typical fruit from the Cerrado biome, and camu-camu, which grows near the rivers and lakes of the Amazon region.
Camu-camu (Myrciaria dubia) is still little known by the population. It is a native fruit from the Brazilian and Peruvian Amazon that is arousing the interest of an increasing number of researchers due to its abundance of health-interest components.
However, Amazon River fish have been feasting on this fruit long before it caught the attention of humans. This fruit has always been much appreciated in the diet of many species of fish and is even used as bait. Today, fish and humans share, in a healthy and sustainable manner, the benefits of camu-camu, each at the best possible way.
A purplish-red fruit that resembles a jabuticaba, camu-camu can be found almost everywhere in the Brazilian Amazon in small shrubs that can reach 4 to 8 meters in height. But the larger natural distribution concentration is found on the Peruvian Amazon. Recently, positive experiments have been conducted by planting the fruit in areas outside the Amazon region, in the Ribeira Valley region of São Paulo, and the first fruits have already started to be marketed from that area with quality.
The great interest in the camu-camu is mainly related to its very diverse composition, with significant concentrations of bioactive compounds, which makes this fruit a promising ingredient for healthy food and food supplements.
Camu-camu is considered one of the most important sources of Vitamin C and may contain up to 6000 mg in 100 g of fruit. When compared to other fruits commonly known by their high Vitamin C content, such as acerola cherry or orange, in 5.5 small camu-camu fruits we have the equivalent, in Vitamin C, to 9 ripe acerola cherries or 30 oranges (that is, 3kg of orange).
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) is a water-soluble vitamin with antioxidant action, being a strong reducing agent and efficient neutralizer of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (FRANKEL, 2012). Among the main benefits of in vivo Vitamin C we can mention, at the immunological level, the bactericidal activity and increased defense functions of the body (IQBAL; KHAN; KHATTAK, 2004). Due to its high antioxidant capacity, it promotes the inactivation of free radicals, directly linked to the aging process and to diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disorders (NUNES et al., 2011). In diabetes, it has a modulating action on insulin action, thus contributing to glycemic control (ARANHA et al., 2004). At the cardiovascular level, it improves endothelial vasomotor capacity of coronary arteries in patients with hypertension and ischemic heart disease, decreases arterial hardening and platelet aggregation, in addition to reducing atherogenesis (MULLAN et al., 2002). Another important function of the ascorbic acid is related to the synthesis of collagen, proteoglycans and other organic components of the extracellular matrix in various tissues, such as teeth, bones and capillary endothelium (MANELA-AZULAY et al., 2006).
Carotenoids can also be found in the fruit, especially lutein and beta-carotene, in greater proportion. For lutein, some studies have shown it to be the responsible for central vision and image clarity. Both lutein and beta-carotene showed antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic and anti-atherogenic effects, that is, were efficient in reducing atheromatous plaque in patients with chronic and acute cardiovascular disease.
It is also characterized by its high content of phenolic compounds, non-nutritive substances that draw attention due to its antioxidant action and that are able, according to some studies, to minimize the risk of incidence of some non-communicable chronic diseases, such as high cholesterol, diabetes, triglycerides, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic activity. Among the phenolic compounds found in the camu-camu are the ellagic acid (48mg/100g fresh fruit), anthocyanins cyanidin-3-glucoside and delphinidin-3-glucoside (48 mg and 2.75mg/100g fresh fruit) and flavonoids quercetin (2.4mg/100mg fresh fruit) and rutin (1.3mg/100g fresh fruit). In addition to these bioactive compounds, we can find some minerals in camu-camu, such as potassium, calcium, magnesium and sodium.
Understand consumers’ needs and deliver exactly what they are looking for, allowing us to turn new demands and market trends into successful products. That is the goal of the Brazilian multinational Duas Rodas, which, in line with the global consumption trends, strengthened last year its Fruittion Botanicals line by offering to the food and beverage industry powder and liquid extracts and flavors focused on the natural active components of Latin American fruits and plants, such as camu-camu, maqui berry, physalis and blueberry. These ingredients enable exploring the natural benefits of the fruit, promoting in their labels the real fruit content, as well as informing the source of vitamin or nutrient in their products, delivering to consumers quality products with healthiness appeal, turning them into business opportunities.
Karina Luize da Silva, Duas Rodas’ Product Research & Development specialist
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IQBAL, K.; KHAN, A.; KHATTAK, M. A. K. Biological significance of ascorbic acid (vitamin c) in human health – a review. Pakistan Journal of Nutrition, v. 3, n. 1, p. 5-13, 2004.
MANELA-AZULAY, M.; MANDARIM-DE-LACERDA, C. A.; PEREZ, M. A.; FILGUEIRA, A. L.; CUZZI, T. Vitamina C. Anais brasileiros de dermatologia, Rio de Janeiro, 78(3):265-274, May/June 2003.
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