Blackcurrant extract and inflammation

Full Disclosure: ‘I have partnered with CurraNZ (, the blackcurrant health & fitness supplement company to do a series of blog posts on the science behind the benefits of NZ blackcurrants. This content is sponsored to the extent that CurraNZ has paid for my time to review the research, the copy/opinions here are my own.’

Inflammation and muscle damage is an essential part of the adaptation to training. As the muscle recovers and rebuilds, it becomes more resilient to the training stress and can cope more with the demands of the training schedule. However, the ability to resolve inflammation and allow for the repair and recovery of muscle tissue is central to this. Muscle damage that requires too much time off training, or an inability to train at the desired intensity can impact negatively on the athlete’s capacity to optimise their fitness and over time can reduce their consistency in training (which arguably is the most important aspect of training). This isn’t just for the elite amongst us, it is important for anyone trying to remain fit and healthy as they age.
There is a strong interest in compounds that help reduce recovery time from exercise to allow for someone to continue to train as soon as they are able to. Blackcurrants have one of the highest indices of anthocyanins, a plant polyphenol that works to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body and helps upregulate endogenous pathways that work to do that in the body. This includes upregulating major antioxidants glutathione and superoxide dismutase, among others. Anthocyanins can also can positively influence the immune response which is negatively impacted by oxidative stress during exercise, preserving neutrophil function. A training study found this indeed was the case with the addition of a 300mg capsule one hour before 30 min rowing activity at 70% VO2 max. This result was amplified when the athletes were given a daily dose for five weeks, suggesting that initial benefits are further augmented, with an increase in cytokines that resolve inflammation and may also help antioxidant capacity (responsible for neutralising free radicals and oxidative stress). It increases blood flow due to its action on the nitric oxide synthase enzyme, which will allow for better delivery of nutrients to the working muscle, and clearance of exercise-related metabolites post-exercise. Thus anthocyanins (and blackcurrant extract) appears to work on several levels and, as further studies show, in different population groups.
A group of healthy yet untrained individuals experienced a significant reduction in muscle damage (as measured by serum creatine kinase) when taking 300mg of a blackcurrant extract over a 12 day period, undertaking strenuous activity on day 8. They also reported less muscle soreness in the 24-48 hours post training. Adherence to exercise in an untrained individual is influenced much more by the inevitable discomfort that can occur when doing something unfamiliar compared to someone who is used to the consequences of strength training. Anything that helps reduce the fatigue and damage (or delayed onset muscle soreness, DOMS) may also help with building the habit of regular training for someone new to it, as they may not be demotivated by how sore they feel and how long it may take to recover. Taking a compound such as blackcurrant extract as part of their daily routine will allow them to become fitter and stronger, experiencing the benefits of exercise more readily.

You’ve heard me talk about CurraNZ before, and I’ve chatted to Fleur Cushman, co-founder of CurraNZ twice on my podcast (here and here) about the exciting and robust findings of the research around the use of CurraNZ for inflammation, sports performance and health. AND CurraNZ have provided first time users with 25% off with the code Mikki – click here.

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