By: Honor Tremain, Nutritionist
Could a purple plum from Queensland be the key to unlocking the obesity crisis, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and a host of other health disasters?
A groundbreaking discovery has been made recently in the science world, originating in Queensland. Professor Lindsay Brown of the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) and his world-class research team, The Metabolic Syndrome Research Team, with Dr. Sunil Panchal and Dr. Hemant Poudyal, discovered something extraordinary about purple foods, such as the purple plum.
Laboratory tests showed that when the Queen Garnet plum were introduced to test subjects who were fed a high saturated fat, high sugar diet, similar to our Western diet, and trying to mimic metabolic syndrome, weight loss and much more occurred.
But not only did weight loss occur, both foods had the startling ability to lower a wide range of related health disorders in the subjects: "when the purple Queen Garnet plums were ingested, even in the presence of eating a high fat, high sugar diet, weight loss occurred. Not only that, but heart health improved, liver function and architecture were normalised, blood pressure returned to normal, and glucose was taken up normally by the body once more", stated Prof. Brown.
Professor Brown, Dr. Panchal and Mr. Maharshi Bhaswant worked together with local growers and the Queensland Government to test this Queen Garnet Plum, possibly the next "super food". The plum was developed by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and grown at Warroo Orchard in southern Queensland.
Why purple foods?
They contain anthocyanin's, powerful anti-inflammatory compounds, which also give the foods their purple colour Anthocyanins work by theoretically blocking NF-kB, one of the main factors responsible for the progression of the inflammation underpinning most modern diseases, including obesity. "Anthocyanins are very effective anti-inflammatory agents and obesity is a chronic, low intensity inflammatory disorder"
states Prof. Brown.
"The results are amazingly positive," says Prof Brown.
The Queen Garnet plum has up to five times the levels of anthocyanins present than normal plums. The Professor says the work has the potential to provide great benefits to the people in this region, increasing the value of the agricultural products.
"It's great for our regional university to be involved in this collaborative project."
Professor Brown and his team have been presenting these findings, and had their work published in respected journals all over the world.
The lowdown on plums
Plums are a great source of vitamin C and also provide vitamin K and fibre. There are over 200 different varieties of plums grown in Australia, but you'll often see Japanese and European types in store as well. Japanese varieties are grown more extensively in Australia than European plums and usually have larger fruit with predominantly red skin. European plums, also grown in Australia tend to be smaller and their skin colour can range from yellowy green, to deep blue or purple. Most of them have a sweet yellow flesh, unlike the blood plums that introduce the season which are quite sour and are best suited in cooking. The d'Agen plum, known as the 'prune plum' is ideal for drying because of its high sugar content, and most prunes are made from this variety.
Some newer varieties have a pinky red flesh with red to purple and black skin. These have a sweet juicy flesh and low acid skin. What's particularly interesting about plums is that, just like human fingerprints, each stone is unique to a particular variety.
The sweetest eating plums are those with little white speckles over the skin as this indicates the presence of natural sugar.
Select fruit where the skin is intact with no signs of wrinkling. Brown patches are a sign of sunburn which can also affect the quality of the fruit.
Plums are picked when they are nearly ripe and will ripen at room temperature over a few days. You can test for ripeness when the fruit gives to gentle pressure. A ripe plum will also have a fragrant aroma. Generally the fruit will become dull once ready to eat. Once ripe they can be stored in the fridge for up to five days. Plums are in season from November to May.
Honor Tremain is a qualified Nutritionist and has worked in the health field for over 20 years. She has been a supervisor and lecturer at Nature Care College in NSW, has had her own successful practices in Sydney and Queensland, and has been a writer for the last six years. You can find more articles and information on her Facebook page Honor Tremain Thriving Nutrition