Promotional Features

What superfood's best? New Zealand blackcurrants key for brain health.
Vitality Wellness (NZ) Limited

Paid for and content provided by Vitality Wellness (NZ) Limited

The following content is provided by an advertiser or created on behalf of an advertiser. It is not written by the editorial team, nor does it necessarily reflect the opinions of

For more information, please contact us here​.

Breakthrough key brain nutrient discovery in New Zealand blackcurrant berries essential for all ages

Last updated on

A world-first scientific breakthrough by Associate Professor Jian Guan of the New Zealand Centre for Brain Research has discovered that New Zealand blackcurrant berries contain high levels of cyclic Glycine-Proline (cGP), a neuropeptide, which play a vital role in normalising the body’s main growth and brain function hormone Insulin like Growth-Factor-1 (IGF-1). IGF-1 is essential for human growth, neurological development, improving the brain signalling pathways and healing recovery.

Dr Guan’s discovery has allowed Vitalitynz to develop Brain Shield; a novel patented blackcurrant supplement which delivers a daily dose of natural cGP designed to boost brain functioning and protect cognitive ability. (1)

cGP is a small and lipophilic molecule (192 d) which activates and normalises human IGF-1; a 70 amino acid protein hormone which is vital for body growth, neurological functioning, and lifespan. When levels of cGP decrease, IGF-1 can no longer operate at optimal levels and this can be implicated in neuro-degenerative disorders including hypertension, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, dementia, and strokes.

It is crucial to maintain a normal ratio of cGP/IGF-1 throughout our lives to ensure healthy brain development during early childhood and to protect against aging and cognitive decline when levels of cGP start to diminish in the human body from age 30 onwards.

Dr Guan uncovered the connection between cGP levels and New Zealand blackcurrant berries by chance when analysing the results of a clinical trial on patients with Parkinson’s disease who had blackcurrant berries added to their diets. Plasma samples from patients highlighted a 26% boost in cGP levels after receiving a daily dose of New Zealand blackcurrant berry extract over a four-week period. The study also found that New Zealand blackcurrant berry extract has the potential to be developed to treat a range of neurological disorders linked to IGF-1 deficiency due to neurotrophic function, oral availability, and effective central uptake of cGP. (2)

A New Zealand research study carried out by Dr Guan which was published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia ​in April 2020, confirmed the importance of maintaining a normal cGP/IGF-1 level as we age. The cross-sectional study included a total of 485 samples. Cognitive impairment is a common feature of Parkinson’s disease for which age is a major contributing factor. The study found that IGF-1 declines with age and contributes to age-related cognitive impairment in PD. The plasma cGP/IGF-1 molar ratio that represents bioactive IGF-1 in circulation, may be associated with the cognitive status in PD. The graph below illustrates the importance of having enough cGP as we age and its likely implication in other neuro-degenerative illness related to cognitive function and impairment. (3)

31987 Vitality GRAPH_600x300px

A 2019 study carried out by Dr Guan for the New Zealand Centre for Brain Research in Auckland found that stroke patients had lower levels of cGP in blood when compared to a control group of non-stroke participants. The imbalanced ratio of cGP/IGF-1 in the stroke patients meant their bodies did not release enough IGF-1 to maintain a healthy state and as a result they developed vascular risks such as hypertension and stroke.

The key finding from the research study is that cGP concentrations at the time of hospital admission can predict the recovery of stroke patients. Dr Guan and her colleagues are also interested in carrying out further research on whether the progressive decrease of cGP in patients with hypertension can be a biomarker for stroke risk. (4)

Vitalitynz is developing a personal non-invasive urine cGP test Aptamer and reader due for release in December 2020 so that people can supplement with cGP if required.

Brain Shield has also been used to treat a six-year-old girl with Rett syndrome (RTT) in a 2018 Spanish observation study. The patient exhibited signs of improvement over the six-month trial which researchers attributed to properties of the blackcurrant extract leading to a cerebral increase in cGP. (5)

A preclinical research study carried out in 2013 illustrated that cGP, a metabolite of IGF-1, normalises IGF-1 function by demonstrating its efficacy in improving recovery from ischemic brain injury by inhibiting the growth of lymphomas tumours.

The role and importance of IGF-1 in traumatic brain injuries (TBI) is also being investigated and IGF-1 may improve neuronal survival after TBI. (6)

Sustainably grown New Zealand blackcurrant berries contain higher levels of anthocyanins than fruit grown in other countries due to elevated exposure to ultraviolet light and mineral rich soils. Anthocyanins are potent antioxidants which are responsible for the dark red-blue colouration of blackcurrant berries. They have been found to improve some symptoms and reduce the progression of diseases such as arteriosclerosis, diabetes, cataracts, cardiovascular diseases, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and arthritis. (7)

The high levels of anthocyanins and polyphenols in New Zealand blackcurrant berries have been found to have strong anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties which are important for a healthy lifestyle. (8) 

Vitalitynz Managing Director Jim Grierson and Director David Eder are excited about the global potential for their novel Brain Shield product and their other cGP formulations suitable for including in a wide range of functional food products, especially now that their own knowledge of the wide-ranging benefits of New Zealand blackcurrant berry consumption is backed by scientific evidence.

“With cGP’s essential role in normalising IGF-1 function proven, we want to ensure as many people as possible can receive the benefits of the world’s only supplement with natural cGP.

“Customers are sharing their stories of improvements in a wide range of neuro-degenerative disorders and we have further research underway to add greater evidence to the transformations that people are experiencing in their body wellness and brain function.”

To learn more visit:

  1. International Publication Number: WO 2019/045575 A1 PCT/NZ2018/050116
  2. Fan, D.; Alamri, Y.; Liu, K.; MacAskill, M.; Harris, P.; Brimble, M.; Dalrymple-Alford, J.; Prickett, T.; Menzies, O.; Laurenson, A.; Anderson, T.; Guan, J. Supplementation of Blackcurrant Anthocyanins Increased Cyclic Glycine-Proline in the Cerebrospinal Fluid of Parkinson Patients: Potential Treatment to Improve Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 Function. Nutrients​ 2018​, 10​, 714
  3. Fan, D, Pitcher, T, Dalrymple‐Alford, J, MacAskill, M, Anderson, T, Guan, J. Changes of plasma cGP/IGF‐1 molar ratio with age is associated with cognitive status of Parkinson disease. Alzheimer's Dement​. 2020; 12: 1– 10.
  4. Fan, D., Krishnamurthi, R., Harris, P., Barber, P.A. and Guan, J. (2019), Plasma cyclic glycine proline/IGF‐1 ratio predicts clinical outcome and recovery in stroke patients. Ann Clin Transl Neurol, 6: 669-677. doi:10.1002/acn3.743
  5. Devesa, J.; Devesa, O.; Carrillo, M.; Casteleiro, N.; Devesa, A.; Llorente, D.; González, C. Rett Syndrome: Treatment with IGF-I, Melatonin, Blackcurrant Extracts, and Rehabilitation. Reports2018​, 1​, 14.
  6. Mangiola, Annunziato & Vigo, Vera & Anile, Carmelo & De Bonis, Pasquale & Marziali, Giammaria & Lofrese, Giorgio. (2015). Role and Importance of IGF-1 in Traumatic Brain Injuries. BioMed Research International. 2015. 1-12. 10.1155/2015/736104.
  7. F. Khan, S. Ray, A.M. Craigie, et al., Lowering of oxidative stress improves endothelial function in healthy subjects with habitually low intake of fruit and vegetables: a randomized controlled trial of antioxidant- and polyphenol-rich blackcurrant juice, Free Radic. Biol. Med. 72 (2014)232–237
  8. Ikuta K, Mizuta K, Suzutani T. Anti-influenza virus activity of two extracts of the blackcurrant (Ribes nigrum L.) from New Zealand and Poland. Fukushima Journal of Medical Science. 2013 ;59(1):35-38. DOI: 10.5387/fms.59.35.