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camu camu berry

What is camu camu

Camu camu (Myrciaria dubia) a tropical fruit that, commonly known as cacari or camocamo, is a small bushy riverside tree from the Amazon rainforest in Peru and Brazil, which grows to a height of 3–5 m (9.8–16.4 ft) and bears a red/purple cherry-like fruit. The camu camu fruit with a diameter of 1.0–3.2 cm has a thin, shiny skin with a juicy (and extremely acidic) pink pulp surrounding one to four seeds. The fruit is known to be a rich source of vitamin C 1 and anthocyanins 2, is not consumed in its natural state, except by the indigenous peoples who inhabit the fruit’s natural territories, because of its very high acidity; rather, it is generally consumed in the form of juices, purees, and pulp, the last to support beverage production and powder as a food additive.

The squeezed camu-camu fruit extract is also used in many kinds of sweets and drinks in Japan. Camu camu is a particularly versatile berry, with its pulp, seeds, and skin all presenting antioxidant potential in differing degrees once processed. The plant is present in many environments, which variously affect its biochemical profile and properties.

Figure 1. Camu camu berry

camu camu berry

Camu camu powder nutrition facts

Camu camu fruits are a substantive source of minerals, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, and copper. Camu camu contain small amounts of pectin and starch. The major sugars are glucose and fructose. The fruits also contain a range of amino acids, organic acids (such as citric acid, isocitric acid, and malic acid), and fatty acids (predominantly stearic, linoleic, and oleic acid). There are 21 volatile compounds. Camu camu fruits are a major source of a range of bioactive compounds. These include many polyphenols (flavonoids, phenolic acids, tannins, stilbenes, and lignans). The compounds depend on state of maturity of the plant and extraction method used. Total phenolic content is higher than that in a range of other tropical fruits, with a higher content in seeds and peel. The antioxidant capacity is higher from flour produced from the camu camu skin and seed residue than from the pulp or pulp powder. Evidence for the anthocyanin content of camu camu is mixed.

Table 1. Camu camu powder nutrition facts

[Source 3]

Camu camu benefits

Antioxidant capacity

Zanatta et al. 4 reported for the first time on the anthocyanin profile of camu camu in fruits from two regions of Sao Paulo, Brazil. The major anthocyanins were cyaniding-3-glucoside, which was the major pigment, followed by delphinidin-3-glucoside. In addition to their light attenuating role, anthocyanins act as powerful antioxidants. More recently, the antioxidant capacity of camu camu was reported to be the highest among the Brazilian fruits evaluated by Goncalves et al. 5. These results confirmed those of an earlier study by Rodrigues et al. 6, which examined fruit from two different sources. In that study, both samples exhibited significant and almost identical antioxidant properties through use of the total oxidant scavenging capacity assay against peroxyl radicals and peroxynitrite, although the effects of the two samples on hydroxyl radicals were substantially different.

Genovese et al. 7 reported on a comprehensive assessment of the bioactive compounds contents and antioxidant activity of five exotic fruits and seven commercial frozen pulps from Brazil 7. The assessment considered vitamin C and total phenolics content, together with antioxidant capacity (β-carotene/linoleic bleaching method and 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl [DPPH] radical scavenging activity), flavonoids, chlorogenic acid content, and ellagic acid content. Among the fruits, camu camu demonstrated the highest vitamin C and total phenolics content and the highest 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl [DPPH] scavenging activity. The main flavonoids present were quercetin and kaempferol derivatives. Cyaniding derivatives were found only in camu camu. Camu camu and araca demonstrated the highest total ellagic acid contents. In particular, commercial frozen pulps had lower antioxidant capacity and bioactive compound content than the respective fruits. In addition, Chirinos et al. 8 reported on the antioxidant compounds and capacity of Peruvian camu camu at different ripening or maturity stages. The screening found that ascorbic acid decreased while anthocyanin, flavonol and flavonol contents, and 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl [DPPH] antioxidant capacity increased during ripening. Fractionating camu camu found that an ascorbic acid–rich fraction was the major contributor to antioxidant capacity (67.5%–79.3%) while a phenolics-rich fraction had only a minor role (20.7%–32.5%) 9.

Myoda et al. 10 reported on the total phenolic contents and antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of residual by-products of camu camu fruit production. They found that the seeds and fruit contained significantly more phenols than did other tropical fruits—notably in the seed. Fractionated seed and peel extracts showed potential antioxidant activity, with antimicrobial activity to Staphylococcus aureus, due to lipophilic constituents.

The polyphenol and vitamin C content, together with the antioxidant capacity of camu camu pulp powder and the dried flour from the skin and seeds residue from pulp preparation of camu camu, was reported in a recent paper by Fracassetti et al. 11. The phenolic content of camu camu flour was higher than that of pulp powder. In both products, flavonol myricetin and conjugates, ellagic acid and conjugates, and ellagitannins were detected. Cyanidin 3-glucoside and quercetin (and its glucosoids) were found only in the pulp powder, while proanthocyanidins were found only in the flour. The vitamin C content was lower in the pulp powder with a higher radical-scavenging capacity.

Human Studies

Inoue et al. 12 reported on the first in vivo study in humans of the antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties of camu camu. The study population consisted of 20 habitual male smokers who were considered to have an accelerated oxidative stress state. These volunteers were randomly assigned to take daily 1050 mg of vitamin C tablets or 70 mL of 100% camu camu juice containing 1050 mg of vitamin C as a dietary supplement for 7 days. Baseline characteristics, including cigarette consumption, tar and nicotine intake, and blood pressure, were similar in the two groups. In the camu camu group, at 7 days, oxidative stress markers urinary 8-hydroxy-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) levels and serum total reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels significantly decreased, as did the levels of the inflammatory markers high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and interleukin-8. No corresponding changes were observed in the vitamin C group. These markers were restored in the washout stage of 1 month after cessation of camu camu use. The authors concluded that camu camu has more powerful antioxidative and anti-inflammatory activities than daily intake of 1500 mg of vitamin C, although the contents of vitamin C are equivalent. They also concluded, given the equivalent vitamin C contents, that camu camu possibly contains other antioxidative substances, including and in addition to the known presence of carotenoids and anthocyanins. A further possibility was that camu camu had substances, such as potassium, that increase the in vivo availability of vitamin C by absorption or excretion.

A more recent study by Ellinger et al. 13 reported on the effects of a bolus consumption of a blended juice of açai, Andean blackberries, and camu camu on the concentrations of plasma antioxidants, plasma antioxidant capacity, and markers for oxidative stress In this randomized controlled crossover study, 12 healthy participants consumed 400 mL of blended juice or a control sugar solution. The primary endpoint of the study was the total antioxidative capacity in blood; multiple assays with different radicals and mechanisms (hydrogen or electron transfer) were used: Trolox Equivalent Antioxidant Capacity (TEAC) and Folin-Ciocalteau (FCR). The results indicated that TWEAC and FCR as parameters of plasma antioxidative capacity were not affected by beverage, time, or interactions between beverage and time, despite an obvious increase in ascorbic acid and other substances with reducing capacity in plasma. Bolus ingestion of the blended juice only increased the concentration of plasma ascorbic acid and several unknown substances with reducing properties. Camu camu blended juice did not reduce markers of oxidative stress. Despite the mixed results for camu camu as a antioxidant, more studies are definitely needed to reinforce the existing evidence of its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative capability and to give more confidence to patients and physicians who are looking to alternative medicines.

Camu camu Safety in humans

The only published report of adverse events in humans probably associated with ingestion of a preparation containing camu camu was reported by Bertoli et al. 14. A 45-year-old man was admitted with a 2-week history of pruritus, scleral icterus, and dark urine and with fever and vomiting. Tests for hepatitis A, B, C and E viruses; Epstein-Barr virus; and cytomegalovirus ruled out viral hepatitis and metabolic or autoimmune cases of liver injury. Magnetic resonance cholangiography showed no abnormalities. A liver biopsy demonstrated centrilobular hepatocellular damage. There was no evidence of cholestasis. No necrotic hepatocytes, eosinophilia, or epithelioid granulomas were present. There was no identifiable fibrosis. Histologic findings were compatible with drug toxicity of not very recent origin. Application of the Naranjo et al. 15 adverse-reaction probability scale suggested camu camu as the most likely cause of the acute hepatitis. Signs of liver injury gradually improved, and the patient was discharged.

  1. Maatta KR, Kamal-Eldin A, Torronen AR. 2003. High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analysis of phenolic compounds in berries with diode array and electrospray ionization mass spectrometric (MS) detection: Ribes species. J Agric Food Chem 51:6736–6744.[]
  2. Zanatta CF, Cuevas E, Bobbio FO, Winterhalter P, Mercadante AZ. 2005. Determination of anthocyanins from camu-camu (Myrciaria dubia) by HPLC-PDA, HPLC-MS,and NMR. J Agric Food Chem 53:9531–9535.[]
  3. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. USDA Branded Food Products Database. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list[]
  4. Determination of anthocyanins from camu-camu (Myrciaria dubia) by HPLC-PDA, HPLC-MS, and NMR. Zanatta CF, Cuevas E, Bobbio FO, Winterhalter P, Mercadante AZ. J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Nov 30; 53(24):9531-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16302773/[]
  5. Chemical composition and antioxidant/antidiabetic potential of Brazilian native fruits and commercial frozen pulps. De Souza Schmidt Gonçalves AE, Lajolo FM, Genovese MI. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Apr 28; 58(8):4666-74. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20337450/[]
  6. Rodrigues R, Papagiannopoulos M, Maia J, Yuyama K, Marx F. Antioxidant capacity of camu-camu [Myrciaria dubia (H. B. K.) McVaugh] pulp. Ernährung/Nutrition 2006;30:357–362[]
  7. Genovese MI, Da Silva Pinto M, De Souza Schmidt Gonçalves AE, Lajolo FM. Bioactive compounds and antioxidant capacity of exotic fruits and commercial frozen pulps from Brazil. Food Sci Technol Int 2008;14:207–214[][]
  8. Chirinos R, Galarza J, Betalleluz-Pallardel I, Pedreschi R, Campos D. Antioxidant compounds and antioxidant capacity of Peruvian camu camu (Myrciara dubia[H.B.K.] McVaugh) fruit at different maturity stages. Food Chem 2010;120:1019–1024[]
  9. Langley PC, Pergolizzi JV, Taylor R, Ridgway C. Antioxidant and Associated Capacities of Camu Camu (Myrciaria dubia): A Systematic Review. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2015;21(1):8-14. doi:10.1089/acm.2014.0130. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4296744/[]
  10. Myoda T, Fujimura S, Park BJ, Nagashima T, Nakagawa J, Nishizawa M. Antioxidative and antimicrobial potential of residues of camu-camu juice production. J Food Agricult Environ 2010;8:304–307.[]
  11. Ellagic acid derivatives, ellagitannins, proanthocyanidins and other phenolics, vitamin C and antioxidant capacity of two powder products from camu-camu fruit (Myrciaria dubia). Fracassetti D, Costa C, Moulay L, Tomás-Barberán FA. Food Chem. 2013 Aug 15; 139(1-4):578-88. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23561148/[]
  12. Tropical fruit camu-camu (Myrciaria dubia) has anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. Inoue T, Komoda H, Uchida T, Node K. J Cardiol. 2008 Oct; 52(2):127-32. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18922386/[]
  13. Bolus consumption of a specifically designed fruit juice rich in anthocyanins and ascorbic acid did not influence markers of antioxidative defense in healthy humans. Ellinger S, Gordon A, Kürten M, Jungfer E, Zimmermann BF, Zur B, Ellinger J, Marx F, Stehle P. J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Nov 14; 60(45):11292-300.[]
  14. Bertoli R, Mazzuchelli L, Cerny A. Acute hepatitis associated with the use of natural product camu-camu. Open J Gastroenterol 2013;3:214–216.[]
  15. A method for estimating the probability of adverse drug reactions. Naranjo CA, Busto U, Sellers EM, Sandor P, Ruiz I, Roberts EA, Janecek E, Domecq C, Greenblatt DJ. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1981 Aug; 30(2):239-45. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7249508/[]
Health Jade Team

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Health Jade