The mulberry could hold the key to fending off dreaded colds and flu this winter, it emerged yesterday.
Tests show the fruit, which is rich in Vitamin C, may help stave off the virus that causes the sniffles and sore throats, and help relieve the symptoms.
The common cold strikes 930,000 Britons, on average, on any day in winter, with levels of sickness already starting to climb rapidly during the current arctic conditions.
Superfruits such as the acai berry and blueberry have long been considered a natural and effective remedy but new research suggests the mulberry is ”significantly” more beneficial for people’s health and well-being.
Scientists from a US laboratory analysed samples of mulberry juice to determine its health-boosting properties.
They found that the fruit juice had high levels of anti-oxidants – chemicals that bolster the immune system and protect the body against illness.
The study, carried out by Massachusetts-based Brunswick Laboratories, revealed that mulberry juice has a higher concentration of anti-oxidants than orange, apple, pear or cranberry juice.
Paul Green of The Progressive Food Company, which commissioned the test for its mulberry juice drink, ‘mul-be’, says the findings “add credence to the long-standing use of mulberries as part of a healthy diet”.
Speaking from the company’s headquarters in Newark, Nottinghamshire, Mr Green said: “Mulberries have been used around the world since ancient times as a food to naturally protect people from colds and other ailments, so I’m not surprised to find the fruit is a rich source of anti-oxidants.
“Anti-oxidants are known for aiding the immune system which protects the body against germs and viruses.
“Though the findings don’t claim mulberry juice to be a miracle cure, there’s no disputing that it has its health benefits.”
One of the two anti-oxidants found naturally in mulberries is Resveratrol, an organic compound also found in red wine that has been hailed as a potential “elixir of life” for its anti-aging properties.
Recent scientific research suggests that antioxidants protect the body against free-radicals – molecules believed to be a cause of premature ageing and that may actively contribute towards illnesses including cancer and heart disease.
The anti-oxidant level of a food or drink is measured using the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) system.
In its research, Brunswick Laboratories, which invented the ORAC system, found that not-from-concentrate mulberry juice has an ORAC value of 530 per fluid ounce.
In comparison, both orange and cranberry juice have an ORAC score of 250 per fl oz., apple juice 130 per fl oz., and grapefruit, 450 per fl oz.
Mr Green, who founded mul-be in 2008, with his son, James, says it that is now “only a matter of time” before mulberries becomes the “must-have superfood” for a healthy lifestyle.
“Not everyone wants to drink wine all the time just to benefit from Resveratrol so mulberry juice is a refreshing, non-alcoholic alternative,” he said.
“I firmly believe that 2011 will be the year that this superfruit finally gets the recognition it deserves.”