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Evaluating the health benefits of fruits for physical fitness: A research platform


To evaluate the health promoting attributes of fruits and their compounds the New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Ltd (PFR) is using exercise as a model for oxidative stress and immune depression. Regular exercise has health benefits believed to be derived from adaptive responses to moderate oxidative stress. However, following exhaustive or unaccustomed exercise, excessive and prolonged oxidative stress and inflammation can be detrimental and the right balance of modulation from nutritional support via fruit phytochemicals (and vitamins) may prevent damage, aid recovery, and/or enhance muscular and immune function. We have developed a research platform to evaluate physical health, performance and recovery to position new fruit varieties in this area. Utilising compositional analysis of fruit extracts, in vitro screening of muscle cells, electrically stimulated muscle ex vivo, and animal and human intervention and exercise trials, we are evaluating the physical health-promoting effects of polyphenolic phytochemicals derived from fruit, particularly berry fruits. Our research demonstrates that certain fruits may complement the benefits of regular exercise through appropriate modulation of excessive oxidative stress and inflammation.