The camu-camu fruit (Myrciaria dubia), grown in the Peruvian Amazon, has received acclaim as the highest natural source of vitamin C yet discovered. Compared to an orange, which provides up to 4,000 parts per million (ppm) of vitamin C, the camu camu berry provides thirty times the vitamin C, up to 500,000 ppm. Even acerola comes in second to camu. According to at least one study, daily intake of the amount of vitamin C in one ounce of camu can add six years to a person’s life!
But there are other benefits of camu in addition to its exceptional vitamin C content. It has substantially more potassium, iron, riboflavin, phosphorus, and niacin than oranges, plus amino acids, terpines and minerals. Other substances in camu are fiber, beta-carotene, protein and calcium.
Benefits of Camu for Athletes
Research has shown that insufficient vitamin C levels can negatively impact perfomance. Reduced vitamin C can result in reduced use of fatty acids for energy, resulting in improper metabolic response to exercise. In addition to this, diminished collagen formation can occur, resulting in increased problems with ligaments and tendons.
Not only is vitamin C a critical component of optimal performance, but studies also reported that increased physical activity increases the amount of vitamin C required to prevent deficiency. Increased altitude can also increase the need for vitamin C, of particular importance for high-altitude climbing and similar activities. In fact Heidi Howkins reports that she prepares for a 25,000 foot climb by consuming additional vitamin C for immune support.
Camu-camu shows strong antioxidant properties as well as anti-imflammatory properties, both of which are of importance to athletes, in addition to a variety of other health-promoting characteristics. Dr. James Duke, former chief botanist for the USDA, ranks camu-camu as the number one herb for asthma. Sylvia Ferrero, Women’s Tri-Fitness champion, reports that using camu helps her recover faster from shin splints and keep from getting as worn down as her colleagues. Camu is thus worth consideration for addition to the regimen of daily supplements for runners and other athletes.
Choosing Your Camu Source
Fresh fruits and vegetables are of course an excellent source of vitamin C and other phytonutrients. Natural sources of vitamin C have been shown to be superior to synthetic versions, and camu is an excellent option. Even the Nobel Prize winner who originally isolated ascorbic acid espoused the superiority of natural sources of vitamin C. One study suggested that camu-camu juice may be more effective as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory than vitamin C tablets with the comparable amount of vitamin C.
Camu is generally not available in its original form in the US but is now available as a supplement in various forms from a variety of sources. Note that the camu camu berry can lose up to 25% of its vitamin C potency over time, with one study finding that the loss occurs over a period of up to a month. So it is well worth finding a source for camu that maximizes the preservation of its potency.
In addition, you will want to confirm whether a camu supplement includes other ingredients such as artificial preservatives, and whether the product is subject to radiation or pesticides during processing. One option is the Amazon Herb Company’s Zamu, an organic preservative-free beverage made with camu-camu, sangre de drago, acai and cacao.
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Sources & Resources
Inoue, Komoda, Uchida, and Node (2008) J Cardiol. 52(2):127-32, “Tropical fruit camu-camu (Myrciaria dubia) has anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties.”
Amazon Spirit, vol. 4 no. 6 (from Amazon Herb Company)
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