Is Maqui Berry a SuperFruit or a Super Hoax?

is maqui berry a hoax
Dr. Lindsey Mcilvena, MD

In her day job, treating patients living with chronic disease, nutrition and lifestyle are not after-thoughts, they’re central to helping her patients get well. She’s also our go-to expert on plant-based diets.

Indigenous to South America, the maqui berry is a small purple berry of an evergreen shrub, and it’s making a big impact state-side. In Chile and Argentina, maqui berries have been used as a traditional medicine for diarrhea and dysentery, as well as in ceremonies. But with its rise in popularity, some people have starting wonder: is maqui berry a hoax?

There are a few scientific studies on the subject, but not many.

We know that maqui berries are rich in vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Small studies have shown that maqui berry extract taken orally provides an anti-inflammatory effect. Other studies have examined the antioxidant-richness of the maqui berry and found it to be high in anthocyanins—the same also found in high quantities in blueberries. This isn’t too surprising, given that anthocyanins are a type of flavonoid that give fruits and vegetables dark blue and purple hues.

A very small study showed that maqui extract might be helpful for tear production in those with chronic dry-eye—these studies would need to be replicated with larger numbers to show definitive evidence.

As with many of the new “superfoods” on the block, evidence is scant — but it’s not necessarily a “hoax” either. What we must remember is that a lack of evidence isn’t the same thing as no evidence. More studies will be needed on this South American berry before we can fully weigh in.

As with the acai berry, it can serve as a nutrient booster in your smoothies and baked goods—right now it’s hard to find it in fresh or frozen forms, in addition to powdered forms.  Also like acai, it can be expensive. If you can’t afford it, no worries, stick to the blueberry for the same kinds of health benefits.

Sources: The FASEB Journal, Nutrition Journal, National Institutes of Health

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