Blackcurrant research a major milestone

Long-touted for their ability to ward off the flu, blackcurrants have now been proven to help athletes fight their body's natural enemy.

World-first research findings into the benefits of Nelson company Sujon's blackcurrant powder showed a significant decrease of lactic acid produced by athletes using the product.

Lactic acid is released into the muscles in the body when they have used up their energy stores but still have energy needs, and can cause intense pain during exhaustive exercise.

Professor Mark Willems, from the University of Chichester, announced the "extremely exciting" results, and said he expected the positive implications of Sujon's product to impact on sports nutrition.

Sujon marketing director Michelle Manson said the results confirmed what the company had found through its own New Zealand-based research, as it had initiated athlete trials of the product with the Nelson Giants in 2010.

They expected "significant global demand for what is quite a unique New Zealand ‘story"', Manson said.

"Our formulation is derived from specially selected blackcurrant crops.

"The Sujon powder is truly natural and has no other ingredients in it, it's a formulation unique to NZ-grown blackcurrants and our processing systems. And we're thrilled the independent research says it works," Manson said.

Tall Blacks manager Claire Dallison said the Sujon powder made a "huge difference" to how the basketballers both performed, and recovered from intense training sessions.

Those who took Sujon produced less lactate when exercising hard than those that were not using the product, she said.

Additionally, the athletes using the powder produced lactate later than their team-mates.

"It's having positive implications for training practice and aerobic performance for endurance athletes," Dallison said.

From "rough science" in its early stages, the Sujon blackcurrant powder was now used by the whole Tall Blacks squad, as well as the Nelson Giants, and New Zealand's best triathletes.

Triathlon New Zealand coach Greg Fraine said the biggest problem with training his athletes, who train up to 36 hours a week, was the increased production of lactic acid in training sessions.

The Sujon powder had been integrated into Triathlon New Zealand's protocols around recovery, which was very important to them, he said.

Fraine travelled to Europe todayin the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games, and had Sujon powder packed to keep his team ticking over and in optimal shape to bring home gold medals.

And it was not just extreme athletes who enjoyed benefits from using the powder.

The company received about 20 calls a week from people saying the product was changing their lives, in a variety of different ways Sujon had not always expected, managing director John Gibb said.

One Sujon user reported vast improvements with her arthritis,

which could be attributed to the positive circulation benefits associated with the product, Gibb said.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise regional manager Lynne Korcheski said the research was an important milestone - not just for the company, but for the economy of the region and the whole country. New Zealanders were "living beyond our means as a country" and high-value exports such as Sujon blackcurrant products were needed to decrease reliance on the primary sector.

The announcement of the results at the International Society of Sports Nutrition's annual conference in the United States would put Sujon on the global stage.

The Nelson Mail