The research, published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture (Vol. 86, pp. 2345-2353) reports that using continuous high speed centrifugation (spinning) to separate the juice and the solid sludge the resulting juice retains more than 40 per cent of polyphenols, 50 per cent of flavonoids and 70 per cent of vitamin C present in the pulp of the red berries.
The new extraction method significantly improves both the yield and nutrients obtained from the fruit compared to current methods which reportedly give juices of poor quality.
The report could see the berries join an ever-increasing list of a number of antioxidant fruits, including pomegranate, guarana, mangosteen, noni berries, goji berries and blueberries, which are increasingly seen by food and beverage makers as up and coming ingredients.
Indeed, Leatherhead Foods predicts that sales of such heart health foods will rise nearly 60 per cent over the 2004-2009 period to reach nearly $5.7bn by 2009. Although it said in its recent Heart Benefit Foods report that, until now, juice drinks have tended to have a general health positioning due to their antioxidant content, there are signs that this may be about to change.
"The process reported, for fresh sea buckthorn berries grown at high altitudes in the Himalayas, constitutes an integrated approach to yield products with high efficiency and quality for nutraceutical applications," wrote lead author Ranjith Arimboor in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture (Vol. 86, pp. 2345-2353).
"Even though sea buckthorn berries from the Himalayas have not been utilised on a commercial scale, the potential appears to be high following the process reported here," said Arimboor.
Sea Buckthorn, already very popular in Tibet, Mongolia, China and Russia, is a rich source of antioxidants reported to inhibit the oxidative the modification of LDL ('bad') cholesterol, reported to be an important part of the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and cardiovascular disease.
The Indian researchers, from the Agroprocessing and Natural Products Division, Regional Research Laboratory (CSIR) and the Defense Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences, subjected fresh berries to a high-pressure dewatering process using a continuous screw press, which gave a liquid phase containing 80-90 per cent of pulp oil.
This liquid phase was then subjected to continuous high speed centrifugation (80 degrees Celsius) to separate the pulp oil, clear juice and sludge.
The researchers, led by Dr C Arumyghan, report that the pulp oil yield was about 2.75 per cent of the fresh berry weight, and said to be a rich source of tocopherols (vitamin E, 1409-1599 milligrams per kilogram of fresh berries), carotenoids (2450-2810 mg per kg), and sterols (4096-4403 mg per kg).
The juice fraction, said the researchers was clear and free from oil, and contained significant quantities of vitamin C (1683-1840 mg per kg), polyphenols (2392-2821 mg per kg) and flavonoids (340-401 mg per kg). The major flavonoids were found to be isorhamnetin (251-310 mg per kg), quercetin (77-81 mg per kg) and kaempherol (12-16 mg per kg).
Dr. Arumughan is confident that this technology had great potential, and said: "No previous report has shown efficiency matching ours".
Sara Stanner, a nutritionist at the British Heart Foundation, told NutraIngredients.com: "The antioxidants in sea buckthorn juice and pulp may protect the heart by reducing harmful chemicals in the blood.
"The pulp oil also contains unsaturated fatty acids and plant sterols, which could help to reduce blood cholesterol levels.
"In addition, there is evidence that sea buckthorn juice might help to protect 'bad' cholesterol from oxidation, a process which is involved in the development of coronary heart disease.
"The oil has also been shown to have a possible benefit in reducing the tendency of blood to clot but more research is needed to clarify whether adding it to foods can have any real impact on reducing risk of heart disease."
Indeed, sea buckthorn oil has also been reported to have a number of other health applications, including atopic eczema, other skin problems related to deficient regeneration, UV radiation stressed skin, mouth dryness, mouth ulcers, gastric ulcers, urinary tract inflammations, cervicitis, genital ulcers, sinus inflammation and eye dryness.
Dr. Arumughan revealed in a statement that two companies are showing an interest in the new process.