Sources and Composition
Aronia is a species of berry-producing plants in the Rosaceae family. The term Aronia tends to refer to multiple specific species, such as Aronia arbutifolia (known as Red Chokeberries) and Aronia Melanocarpa (Black Chokeberries); a third species (Aronia prunifolia) is sometimes considered a hybrid third species of Aronia. Usually, Aronia Melanocarpa (Black Chokeberries) are used.
Three species called 'Aronia', with Melanocarpa (Black Chokeberries) being the most commonly supplemented and commercially grown
Aronia originates from the Eastern seaboard of North America, and spread via trade in the 19th century to Russia, Europe, and specifically Germany where Aronia can be used to make fruit syrup, fruit juice, soft spreads, fruit jellies and tea (sometimes with Black Currant). Use is limited due to the sour and astringent taste of the raw berries, they are many times mixed with other fruits in commerical products. The shrubery itself grows to 2-3m tall bearing white flowers, which eventually produce small (13 mm, 0.5-2g) berries.
These berries are sometimes referred to as Chokeberries, and are quite different than the similar fruits known as Chokecherries; the latter belongs to the plant Prunus virginiana. Chokeberries are sometimes referred to as Rowanberries (a term used to refer to the species Sorbus aucuparia), but this may be a reference to hybrids of Sorbus and Aronia.
Appears to be a deep colored and edible berry with a sour taste, used in commercial products due to its nice aroma but paired with other fruits due to its sour and astringent taste
Aronia Berries tend to be 15.6-28.8% dry matter in their fresh form and quite acid with a pH ranging from 3.3-3.7. The ratio of glucose to fructose in the carbohydrate fragment appears roughly equal between cultivars (when analyzing juices without additions) while a high sorbitol content exists. Dietary fiber, in regards to the fresh weight, is low at 0.3-0.6% but contains a high anthocyanin content (due to dark pigmentation) and both dietary fat and protein are low at 0.14% and 0.70% fresh weight respectively.
Specific Nutrient constituents of Chokeberries include:
- Vitamin C at 200mg/L juice (lost in pasteurization)
- Vitamin B1 at 500mcg/L juice
- Vitamin B2 at 600mcg/L juice
- Vitamin B5 at 2200mcg/L juice
- Vitamin B6 at 550mcg/L juice
- Folate at 35mcg/L juice
- Niacin at 3,400mcg/L juice
- Potassium (1969-2850mg/L)
- Calcium (150-165mg/L)
- Magnesium at 140-160mg/L
While nutient-like constituents include:
- Amygdalin (also known as laetrile), a cyanogenic glycoside at 57.5mg/L juice and 20.1mg/100g fresh weight while the pomace contains 50.3mg/100g fresh weight
- Malic Acid at 9-11mg/L juice
- Citric Acid at 247-500mg/L juice and Isocitric acid at 65mg/L
- Shikimic Acid at 80mg/L juice (lost in pasteurization)
- Various Carotenoids (70mcg/L) and Beta-Carotene (32mcg/L) in pasteurized juice, unpasterized content unknown
- Anthocyanins (307-631mg/100g fresh weight, once reported up to 1480mg/100g) with values being elevated up to a recorded 1959mg/100g after removal of water (dehydration); Anthocyanins consist of up to 25% of total phenolics, which Chokeberries appear to be second best in total content (second to Rowanberries)
- Procyanidin compounds at 667mg/100g fresh weight and 3992-5182mg/100g dry weight; consisting solely of Procyanidin B chains with a 98.5:1.5 epicatechin:catechin ratio with the majority (81%) consisting of over 10 units
- Anthocyanin compounds consisting mostly of Cyanidin glycosides (mostly galactoside) with trace Pelargonidin glycosides
- Chlorogenic Acid at 61mg/100g (fresh weight) and 302mg/100g (dry weight), around 7.5% total polyphenolic compounds
- Quercetin glycosides totalling less than 71mg/100g fresh weight and 101mg/100g dry weight
Overall, the Chokeberry is a low-fiber and low-protein berry with a tart sugary taste but a comparatively very high yield of Anthocyanins and Procyanidins; the molecules claimed to underlie benefits associated with Blueberries and Grape Seed Extract
Interactions with Oxidation
In vitro (ORAC Rating)
In comparison to other berries (and due to the large phenolic content), in vitro anti-oxidant assays (ORAC) suggests that Chokeberries have more antioxidant potential than any other tested berries; Rowanberries not tested. Chokeberries have an ORAC of 158.2-160.2 (Trolox Equivalents), and if we assume 160 as 100% (for comparative purposes) then Elderberry has 90% the potency, Rabbiteye Blueberry 77% the potency, Lowbush Blueberry 40-55% the potency, Highbush Blueberry 9-37.5% the potency, Blackberry and Black Currant at around 35% the potency, Strawberry at 9-13% the potency, Raspberry at 13%, Cranberry at 6-11% the potency, and Grapes being 2-5% the potency.
At least in vitro, appears to confer comparatively high levels of other berries and outperforming Blueberries and all other tested berries
Serum testing in this section includes measuring the blood from populations of humans, but not actively measuring oral consumption or Aronia. Cell testing is using a cell culture in vitro, but not an anti-oxidative grading scale such as ORAC or TEA (mentioned in the former section)
One study measuring oxidation from activated immune cells (PMNs) noted that concentrations of 1-50% of medium as Aronia Juice was able to attenuate the oxidative effects of activated PMNs in a statistically significant but relatively weak manner; thought to be due to direct free radical scavenging.
One study measuring the serum of Breast Cancer patients noted that the anti-oxidative properties of Aronia was able to normalize (reduce) levels of thiol compounds such as glutathione and homocysteine, but that this effect failed to reach statistical significance. On the topic of thiol concentrations, 300mg of Aronox (Aronia extract) failed to modify serum thiol levels in persons with high cholesterol and in healthy control.
The aforementioned remarkable effects of Aronia Melanocarpa in ORAC testing appear to be much less significant when applied to serum or cell cultures; there is benefit, but it is much less promising than the ORAC rating presumes
After consumption of 300mg Aronia Melanocarpa extract (100mg thrice a day) to persons with metabolic syndrome for 2 months, decreases were seen in the Catalase enzyme (18.5%) while increases occurred with Superoxide Dismutase (+28.8%) and Glutathione Peroxidase (52%).
One study using 300mg Aronox (100mg thrice a day) for 2 months in persons with high cholesterol and 20 healthy controls noted a decrease in lipid peroxidation and subsequent increase in membrane fluidity of red blood cells, this benefit has been replicated and the decrease in lipid peroxidation (assessed by TBARS) quantified at 49%.
One study in persons with metabolic syndrome noted that Aronia Melanocarpa supplementation at 300mg (100mg thrice a day) noted reductions of 8% and 6% (systolic and diastolic) after 2 months.
Lipoproteins and Triglycerides
300mg of Aronox daily (100mg thrice a day) for 2 months in persons with high cholesterol is associated with a 22% reduction in cholesterol level while not significantly affecting healthy controls. Another study using this same dosing protocol noted reductions in total cholesterol (6.1%), LDL-C (7.9%), and triglycerides (13.1%).
Reductions in cholesterol have been noted in Type II Diabetics given 200mL of unsweetened Aromia Melanocarpa juice for a period of 3 months, where the decrease in cholesterol reached 21% and again failed to influence healthy controls. This study also noted a reduction in triglycerides reaching 41% in diabetics, which is significantly higher than the aforementioned studies in high cholesterol and metabolic syndrome.
May have putative cholesterol lowering effects in unhealthy persons, but high variability appears to exist; no significant effects noted in otherwise healthy persons
Interactions with Glucose Metabolism
In a rat model of diabetes, administration of Aronia appears to reduce blood glucose by 42-44% at oral doses of 10-20mL/kg juice (no apparent dose dependent response) without influencing blood glucose levels in non-diabetic controls. Similar results have been seen in humans with Type II Diabetes, where 200mL of sugar-free Aronia juice for 3 months is associated with a 31% reduction in fasting blood glucose (13.28+/-4.55mmol/l to 9.10+/-3.05mmol/l; n=21) and a betterment of HbA1c (20% reduction). These anti-diabetic results parallel those seen with other procyanidin rich foodssuch as Grape Seed Extract and may not be unique to Aronia, as there is a fair bit of cross-over of the contituents.
May exert putative anti-diabetic effects in Type II Diabetes, potency relative to other sources of Anthocyanins (which also share this property) is unknown
Interactions with Cancer
An in vitro study in U737 (brain epithelium) tumor cells noted that incubation of these cells for 48 hours with Aronia extract noted downregulation of four MMP proteins (2, 14, 16, and 17) associated with Aronia with an IC50 value of 200mcg/mL; this suggests anti-metastasis effects of Chokeberry. However, the cell death induced by Aronia was necrotic rather than apoptotic (unregulated versus regulated) and was significantly outperformed by Curcumin with an IC50 value of 15mcg/mL by apoptotic pathways.
Another in vitro study using leukemia cells noted an induction of apoptosis at G2/M phase and reduced cell proliferation. These effects appeared to be secondary to pro-apoptotic modulation of pro-oxidative enzymes acting to disregulate the mitochondrial membrane, and were inhibited by incubating anti-oxidants; these oxidative effects were not noted in normal T-cells (immune cells).