Sunday, March 13, 2011

Health benefits of aronia berries

      According to, a website of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), people who eat more fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases.  A diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of heart disease, certain types of cancers, obesity, type 2 diabetes, kidney stones, bone loss, and high blood pressure.

      Laboratory tests have shown that aronia berries are higher in antioxidants than apples, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, elderberries, grapes, oranges, pears, prunes, raspberries, and other fruits that are commonly grown commercially in the United States and Canada.  For example, the Oxygen Radical Absorbency Capacity (ORAC) values for raw aronia berries (chokeberries) is 16,062 compared to 6,552 for raw blueberries.  The bar graph below shows the ORAC values for several fruits.

      The ORAC values of foods are expressed in micromoles trolox equivalents (TE) per 100 gram sample and are compared to assessments of total polyphenol content in the samples.  The shorthand way to say that is trolox equivalent (TE) or micromoles per 100 grams.

      The USDA ORAC Database for Selected Foods was on the website of the Agriculture Research Services of the USDA.  This database was a cooperative effort of the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory (NDL), the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, and the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center.  This database was updated in 2010.  At that time, it contained measures of the antioxidant capacities of 326 food items.  Raw and processed fruits, nuts, vegetables, and spices were analyzed for their Oxygen Radical Absorbency Capacity and the results were placed on this database.


     Recently the NDL removed the USDA ORAC Database from the NDL website.  This was done because of the mounting evidence that the values indicating antioxidant capacity have no relevance to the effects of specific bioactive compounds on human health.  Here is a quote from the NDL website:

    “There are a number of bioactive compounds which are theorized to have a role in preventing or ameliorating various chronic diseases such as cancer, coronary vascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.  However, the associated metabolic pathways are not completely understood and non-antioxidant mechanisms, still undefined, may be responsible. ORAC values are routinely misused by food and dietary supplement manufacturing companies to promote their products and by consumers to guide their food and dietary supplement choices.”...

    "There is no evidence that the beneficial effects of polyphenol-rich foods can be attributed to the antioxidant properties of these foods.  The data for antioxidant capacity of foods generated by in vitro (in a test-tube) methods cannot be extrapolated to in vivo (in human) effects and the clinical trials to test benefits of dietary antioxidants have produced mixed results. We know now that antioxidant molecules in food have a wide range of functions, many of which are unrelated to the ability to absorb free radicals."

     Visit the NDL website for more information.


     Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) is a method of measuring antioxidant capacities of foods.  An antioxidant is a molecule capable of inhibiting the oxidation of other molecules.

      When oxygen interacts with cells, oxidation is inevitable.  Cells die and are replaced with fresh, new cells.  It is a natural process that keeps the body healthy.  Although the body is created to process oxygen very efficiently, a small percentage of cells get damaged in the oxidation process and turn into free radicals.  They are “free” because they are missing a critical molecule that would keep them stable.  To find their missing molecule, they go on a rampage in the body, stealing molecules where they can.  In this process, the DNA of other cells can be damaged.  Free radicals trigger a chain reaction resulting in aging and disease.

      The exceptionally high ORAC value of aronia is due primarily to the dark purple pigments in the fruit.  These water-soluble  pigments are anthocyanins.  Anthocyanins accumulated in cell vacuoles and are largely responsible for diverse pigmentation from orange to red, purple and blue colors in flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

     According to Dr. Ronald E. Wrolstad, Professor of Food Science and Technology at Oregon State University, over 300 structurally distinct anthocyanins have been identified in nature.  Anthocyanins are one class of flavonoid compounds, which are widely distributed plant polyphenols.     

Anthocyanins are found in fruits such as aronia, blackberry, red and black raspberries, blueberries, bilberries, cherries, currants, blood orange, elderberries, and grapes.  They are also found in vegetables such as purple carrots, purple sweet potato, red cabbage, red lettuce, red onion, and the skin of red- or purple-skinned egg-plant, potato, and radish.  The red, purple, and blue colors of many flowers are due to anthocyanins. 

     Total anthocyanin content in aronia berries is 1,480 mg per 100 g of fresh berries, and proanthocyanidin concentration is 664 mg per 100 g (Wu et al. 2004, 2006).  Both values are among the highest measured in plants to date.   

      According to Dr. Ray Sahelian, M.D., Aronia melanocarpa fruit is one of the richest plant sources of phenolic substances, mainly anthocyanins -- glycosides of cyanidin.  The main active ingredients are phenolic substances, mainly flavonoids from the anthocyanin subclass.

      Research has shown that antioxidants help reduce the risk for cancer, heart disease, inflammation, diabetes, bacterial infections, and neurological diseases.  Because antioxidants do all of that, it should be no surprise that they also slow the aging process.

      Aronia berries and products made from aronia berries fit the definition of a  nutraceutical.  This term combines the words "nutrition" and "pharmaceutical."  The word was coined in the 1990's by Dr. Stephen L. DeFelice, founder and chairman of the Foundation of Innovation Medicine, Crawford, New Jersey.  According to Dr. DeFelice, "A nutraceutical is any substance that is a food or a part of a food and provides medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease."
      Over the last few years, Nature’s Power Nutraceuticals (NP Nutra) Corporation has tested over 100 different nutraceutical fruit powders including the most popular ones from other manufacturers.  NP Nutra’s water soluble aronia 4:1 extract got the highest ORAC score at 4738 umoleTe/g, which is more than double that of other nutraceutical powders.

      However, an article in the January 25, 2011 issue of Newsweek claims that antioxidants “…may not do any good, and may actually harm.”  The article is entitled, “Antioxidants Fall From Grace.”  The article says that one study concluded that, “…taking antioxidants …supplements was not beneficial to health and might even be dangerous, though the reason for the danger wasn’t clear.”  In 2008 the Cochrane Collaboration, an international consortium of scientists who assess medical research, scrutinized 67 studies with nearly 400,000 participants.  The report “…found no evidence to support antioxidant supplements for primary or secondary prevention….”  The Newsweek article says, “It’s not clear why antioxidants in supplement form might be so dangerous.”  Three other studies were also briefly discussed in the Newsweek article.  
      For what appears to be a better explanation of the studies cited in the Newsweek article, read the comment of Dr. Jonathan Wright entitled, Newsweek Publishes Disgraceful Article on Antioxidants.”  Dr. Wright is a physician and natural biomedical researcher.  He says that the Newsweek article is, “Another one-sided ‘mainstream media’ attack on an aspect of natural health care, filled with to-be-expected misinformation, partial information, and -- of course -- no attempt at all to present both sides of the manufactured controversy.”

      None of the studies cited in the Newsweek article were about aronia berries.  And there have been no reports of side effects of eating aronia berries or products made from them.  But like almost anything, moderation and variety is advisable.

Begley, S. 1994. Beyond vitamins. Newsweek, 123(17):45-49.

     Phytochemicals are chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants (phyto means “plant” in Greek).  The term is generally used to refer to chemicals that may have biological significance.  Many of these compounds have specific functions in plants.  Some are also active when consumed by animals.  Many of these compounds are essential to life and/or highly beneficial to health.  Others are toxic.  Antioxidants are one type of phytochemical.  But scientists estimate that there may be as many as 10,000 different phytochemicals

      There are dozens of fruits and berries that provide health benefits for human consumption.  Each of them has certain substances that the other berries do not have.   In addition to berries, many other food or food product contain a wide variety of different chemical compounds that are classified as antioxidants.  This includes:
     Carotenoids (lycopene, carotenes, and lutein) in fruit, vegetables, and eggs
     Polyphenolics (resveratrol and flavonoids) in chocolate, cinnamon, coffee,
                 fruit, olive oil, oregano, red wine, soy, and tea
     Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in many fruits and vegetables
     Vitamin E in vegetable oils

      Dry ground cinnamon spice has an ORAC value of 267,536.  But how much cinnamon can you eat?  I certainly can’t eat it by the spoonful like medicine.  But I have found a way to consume more cinnamon.  Now at breakfast, I have started to eat several big cinnamon rolls!  I’m already feeling healthier.  We need to all eat more cinnamon rolls because cinnamon is very high in antioxidants.  Of course I'm joking.  Too much of anything is probably not good for us.  But I sure do like cinnamon rolls and they make me feel better!  And that’s my cinnamon roll testimonial.

      The flavor of aronia berries is nothing like cinnamon or cinnamon rolls but it is just as distinctive.  Most people are already familiar with the taste of blueberries and other small fruits.  Each has its own unique flavor.  So does aronia.  But aronia berries are more astringent than most other fruit.  If you like dry wine you will most likely love raw aronia berries.  They do lose some of their astringency when cooked or processed but they retain most of their health benefits (see studies cited below).  You can read more about the health benefits of including aronia berries in your diet at Agriculture Marketing Resource Center.

      A two-year project entitled “Developing production, processing, and marketing of aronia berries on small family farms in Southeast Iowa” was funded in 2009 by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and completed in 2012.  Some of the funds for this project were used for chemical analysis of Iowa grown aronia fruit.  The laboratory tests were conducted by the Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute at Iowa State University.  The results showed that the aronia juice had a pH of 3.5, titratable acidity of 8.2 and a total solids content of 6.9 degrees Brix High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analysis showed that succinic acid, malic acid, quinic acid, acetic acid, citric acid and ascorbic acid were present.  Glucose, fructose and possibly sorbitol made up the carbohydrate portion of the juice.  By comparison, a commercial juice sample from Germany was tested.  This juice had a pH of 3.4, titratable acidity of 13.0 and total solids content of 15.4 degrees Brix. HPLC analysis showed that the same acid and carbohydrate compounds were present but in different proportions.

      A study entitled “The effect of processing on chokeberry (Aronia Medik.) polyphenols” cited by the Nordic Association of Agricultural Scientists examined the effects of different types of food processing on the concentrations of antioxidants in aronia berries.  The aronia berries were produced into jams, dried fruits and juices.  Their results showed that processing the aronia berries as jams yielded the least amount of antioxidant loss at 95% retention of antioxidants.  Processing the aronia berries into dried fruit yielded a little bit higher antioxidant loss at approximately 65% retention of antioxidants.  Finally, processing the aronia berries into juice yielded the greatest antioxidant loss at approximately 25% retention of antioxidants.

      Similar results were obtained from a study entitled “Nutritional Value, Taste Considerations, and Antioxidant Content of Iowa Grown Aronia Berry Food and Beverage Products.”  Funds for this project were provided by the USDA Specialty Crops Block Grant Program through the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

      Some testimonials about the health benefits of aronia may lead you to believe that aronia is a cure-all.  It is not a cure-all.  Even though the health benefits of antioxidants and aronia are well documented in medical research publications, it is always good to have a large dose of skepticism.   The placebo effect is also real and can be very strong.  If you believe or want to believe that something will cure your ailments, it most likely will.  Belief is very powerful.  So beware of testimonials!

      Nutraceuticals and nutraceutical supplements are not currently regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (US-FDA).  Due to this, claims regarding the beneficial effects of nutraceuticals can only be “health claims” and not “medicinal claims.”  For instance the claims must not state that by eating/taking the nutraceutical a disease will be prevented or cured but only that it may help to improve health, possibly assisting in the avoidance of the onset of illness.

      Health claims for aronia are based primarily on laboratory and animal research rather than human tests.  In 2010, researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem reviewed the aronia research studies done with people.  They found only 13 aronia studies with people.  They rated the quality of most of these studies as poor.  They concluded that more rigorous studies in people will be needed before aronia products can be recommended with confidence (2010, Chrubasik, etal.).

      Although the name "nutraceutical" implies that nutraceuticals have medicinal properties they are in fact food types.  As it stands nutraceuticals are only required to comply with food laws.  The two key areas of food regulation to be considered in relation to nutraceuticals are those of labeling and advertising.

      In 1994, Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. Dietary supplements without drug approval can make so-called 'structure/function' claims, such as "Vitamin A promotes good vision" or "St. Johns Wort maintains emotional well-being," so long as the label bears a disclaimer that the claim has not been evaluated by the FDA and that the product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. -- quote from an article by Maxwell J. Mehlman, J.D. and Professor of Law and Director of the Law-Medicine Center at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Cleveland, Ohio.

      Reaction to the obesity epidemic in the United States combined with claims related to the health benefits of aronia is driving the interest in and market for aronia berries.  But care must be taken not to excessively promote the health claims and potential benefits of aronia berries.  Many new "miracle foods" are surrounded by a lot of health claim hype, and aronia is no exception.

      USDA chemist Ronald L. Prior says the total antioxidant capacity of the foods does not necessarily reflect their health benefit.  Benefits depend on how the food's antioxidants are absorbed and utilized in the body.  Currently, there are no USDA guidelines on how many (dosage) or what kind of antioxidants to consume in your daily diet. 


Chrubasik, C., G. Li, S. Chrubasik.  2010.  The clinical effectiveness of chokeberry: asystematic reviewPhytotherapy Research .  24(8): 1107-1114.

Wu, X., L. Gu, R. L. Prior, and S. McKay. 2004. Characterization of anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins in some cultivars of Ribes, Aronia and Sambucus and their antioxidant capacity. J Agric Food Chem. 52 (26): 7846-7856.

Wu, X., G. R. Beecher, J. M Holden, D. B. Haytowitz, S. E. Gebhardt, and R. L. Prior. 2006. Concentrations of anthocyanins in common foods in the United States and estimation of normal consumption. J Agric Food Chem. 54 (1): 4069-4075.



      The author of this blog accepts no responsibility for the validity of information provided.  The health and medical efficacy of products or plants mentioned on this blog may not have been evaluated by or approved by the US-FDA to treat, cure, or prevent disease.


      Please recommend this website to a friend, family member, or anyone who might be interested in aronia.

      Please post a comment in the box below.  To learn more about aronia, visit our website Everhart Horticulture Consulting.

Thank you,
Dr. Eldon Everhart


  1. Very informative post on the antioxidant-related health benefits of aronia berries ... that Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) value is pretty crazy! I think my favorite aronia berry food so far is the jelly. Just take some whole grain bread, omega3 enhanced peanut butter and aronia berry jelly and you've got an awesome snack that has fiber, protein, omega 3's, and antioxidants. Plus, it's yummy!

  2. We sell dried Aronia berries and we are getting them into several supermarket chains including some whole foods, tops supermarkets, rice epicurean markets, and shoprites. Visit

    to get some for yourself! Your health will thank you!

  3. Hello,

    Nice article has been shared here. it was nice article to read and also did get lots of good information from here. thanks for sharing such article here. it would be great if you can post some information related to Cardiology hospital India here in this article. keep on posting such article here in future too.


  4. I am impressed. I don't think Ive met anyone who knows as much about this subject as you do. You are truly well informed and very intelligent. You wrote something that people could understand and made the subject intriguing for everyone. Really, great blog you have got here.

  5. I really appreciate the fact that you took the time out for us. It's pretty nice that you aren't recommending things unless you have attempted to make them work yourself at one point.

  6. I'm creating a skin care line based on your beautiful aronia berries. I was wandering if I could use some of the information you've listed on your site I would of give your URL and credit.

    I would be adding the information to my facebook site I'm creating soaps, healing oils ...

    1. Sorry I didnt add where it would be on facebook

  7. I've been taking aronia berry powder for 4 months every day 1/2-teaspoon in a bottle of water in the morning, and the same in the evening, I would add a flavor to make it taste better. The winter is to say gone now and I don't know is it because of the aronia that I did not have a cold or what? My younger daughter has also been taking the aronia with me and the same nothing. My older daughter & wife have been getting colds, now finally my wife is on to it also. We've been buying the powder from this web site and it's been real good I recommended to all.
    Vic & Family

  8. Pretty! This was an extremely wonderful post.
    Many thanks for providing this information.

  9. What is the recommended brix level of aronia berries when deciding to pick?

  10. Brix is the standard unit of measurement for sugar content of an aqueous solution such as fruit juice. Sugar content of aronia berries will increase as the berries ripen and will continue to increase even after the berries reach their maximum anthocyanins (purple pigment) content.

    The answer to the question “What is the recommended brix level of aronia berries when deciding to pick?” depends on the intended use of the berries.

    If the berries are to be consumed primarily for their reputed health benefits, then I recommend harvesting the berries when 95 percent of them are dark purple. If left on the bush longer the sugar content will continue to increase but the berries may begin to dry out and lose weight. If you are selling the berries by the pound or by the ton, then weight loss is not good.

    If you are primarily interested in eating the berries fresh or making wine, juice, or jelly from them, then wait until the Brix are 16 to 20 or greater. Aronia berries can be as sweet as the sweetest table grapes.

    For wine making, the optimal maturity depends on the acid level as well as the sugar content. As aronia berries ripen, sugar levels rise and acid levels fall.

    Also, the sugar content of aronia berries will vary from year to year and from one site to another. So there is no single best answer to the question, “What is the recommended brix level of aronia berries when deciding to pick?”

  11. Your website is very useful. I like the way you have arranged the information. I look forward to reading more on your blog about aronia in the future. Thank you! Yasir Rana (This is the translation of a comment made on October 21, 2013 at 7:09 AM)

  12. aronia berry powder orac value why not measured ?

    1. Orenda International paid to have their aronia powder analyzed by an independent laboratory. The test results indicated that their aronia powder had an ORAC value of 9,075 umole TE/g. However, the antioxidant benefits of fresh fruit will deteriorate quickly if the fruit is not properly processed shortly after harvest. So the ORAC value of aronia powder can vary.
      Dr. Eldon Everhart

    2. why not go with sumac berry bran with its 312.400 orac value

  13. I looked at that ORAC document and found the raw sumac bran had H-ORAC 309900. But only found H-ORAC 15820 for chokeberry. That's a HUGE difference from your statement of 907500. Where did you get this number for aronia powder?

    1. My comparison is between processed aronia berries (aronia powder) and processed sumac sorghum grain (sumac bran). The USDA Data Base does not include the ORAC value for aronia powder. However, Orenda International hired an independent laboratory to analyze aronia powder. The test results were reported in trolox equivalents (TE) value per one gram rather than per 100 grams. To convert the value from one gram to 100 grams, you multiply by 100.
      9,075 umole TE/g X 100 = 907,500 umole TE/100g

      Sumac bran = 309,900 umole TE/100 grams
      (USDA Data Base)
      Aronia powder = 907,500 umole TE/100 grams
      (Orenda International independent laboratory test)

      The bran is the portion of a grain that is processed out of the grain to make ingredients like white flour. Sumac sorghum is a variety of Sorghum bicolor.

      Dr. Eldon Everhart

  14. How much aronia should I eat per day for maximum health benefit? I can pick and freeze as much as I now.

    1. As of 2006, about 560 different anthocyanins have been identified in many fruits and vegetables. Studies have shown that the average American consumes 12.5 milligrams of anthocyanins from fruits, vegetables, and other sources per day. However, the absorption of anthocyanins may be less than 1% of the total amount consumed.

      Little research is available as to the safe maximum daily dosage of anthocyanins. However, the total daily amount of fruits you need to eat depends on several factors including your age, sex, and level of physical activity. Based on these factors, the amounts recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture are from 1 to 2 cups of fruit per day.

      Dr. Eldon Everhart