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Kiwifruit: Overview of Potential Health Benefits

Singletary, Keith PhD

doi: 10.1097/NT.0b013e31825744bc
Nutrition and Food

Kiwifruit belongs to the genus Actinidia (Actinidiaceae) and is derived from a deciduous woody, fruiting vine. It is composed of different species and cultivars that exhibit a variety of characteristics and sensory attributes. Kiwi plants have been grown for centuries in China, where they are known as mihoutau. Kiwi plant seeds were brought to New Zealand in the early 20th century, where it was eventually domesticated and sold worldwide. Currently, commercial growth of the fruit has spread to many countries including the United States, Italy, Chile, France, Greece, and Japan. Kiwifruit extracts have been reportedly used in traditional Chinese medicine for relief of symptoms of numerous disorders. In light of growing consumer acceptance of kiwifruits worldwide, there has been an increased attention given to identifying health benefits associated with its consumption. Potential benefits include a rich source of antioxidants, improvement of gastrointestinal laxation, lowering of blood lipid levels, and alleviation of skin disorders. Some individuals report allergic symptoms to kiwifruit, and a considerable research effort is being focused on characterizing kiwifuit’s allergenicity among various populations of people. Kiwifruit not only is rich in vitamin C but also is a good source of other nutrients such as folate, potassium, and dietary fiber. This fruit’s content of nutrients and biologically active phytochemicals has stimulated investigations into its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions that might then help prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other degenerative disorders.

A fruit from far away has some interesting characteristics worth taking a look at

Keith Singletary, PhD, is professor emeritus of nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois. From 2001 to 2004, he was the director of the Functional Foods for Health Program, an interdisciplinary program between the Chicago and Urbana-Champaign campuses of the University of Illinois. Dr Singletary received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in microbiology from Michigan State University and his PhD in nutritional sciences from the University of Illinois. Dr Singletary’s primary research interests are in molecular carcinogenesis and cancer chemoprevention, specifically identifying and determining the mechanism of action of phytochemicals in fruits, vegetables, and spices as cancer protective agents. He also investigated the biological basis behind the role of alcohol intake in enhancing breast carcinogenesis. He has been recognized with the Senior Faculty Award for Excellence in Research by the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois and with the Outstanding Graduate Mentor/Advisor award from the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. Dr Singletary currently resides in Florida.

Funding for this article was provided in part by the California Kiwifruit Commission and the International Kiwifruit Organization.

The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence: Keith Singletary, PhD, University of Illinois, 260 Bevier Hall, 905 S Goodwin Ave, Urbana, IL 61801 (kws@illinois.edu).

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.