Research released at the first International Symposium on Kiwifruit and Health in Tauranga this week provides an increasing body of evidence for kiwifruit's benefits to the digestive system, immunity and metabolic health.

Sponsor Zespri, with global sales revenues of $1.57 billion in 2014/15, has been working to increase kiwifruit's share of the overall fruit sector.

"It's critical that we are able to substantiate and communicate the health benefits of kiwifruit," said chief executive Lain Jager.

There was a strong business reason behind the symposium, because it was important to communicate to not only consumers, but the scientists, nutritionists and dieticians who influenced what people consume.


"The more people know about the health benefits of kiwifruit, the more they will consume."

The symposium brought together nearly 200 global health experts to consider the role of fruit, and in particular kiwifruit, in a healthy diet.

The event was initiated by the Riddet Institute of New Zealand, a premier national centre for research in food.

It presented the most recent studies and research under way within the areas of digestive health, health and vitamin C and metabolic health. (See factbox)

"Continued investment in world-class research on the health benefits of kiwifruit has value both for Zespri, for health practitioners, and for consumers around the world, as the importance of a healthy and balanced diet becomes ever-more important and understood," said Riddet Institute co-director professor Paul Moughan.

Keynote speaker professor Jaap Seidell from Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, the Netherlands' foremost obesity specialist, said there was a general consensus that nutrient-poor food was a key driver in escalating rates of obesity and related chronic disease.

"Improved health outcomes are associated with diets high in nutrient-rich, low energy-dense fruit, such as kiwifruit," he said.

Dr John Monro from Plant & Food Research presented on the glycaemic impact of kiwifruit, which showed kiwifruit helped to regulate blood sugar levels.

Otago University's Professor Richard Gearry presented the New Zealand results of a multi-centre clinical trial, which includes Italy and Japan, on the effect of kiwifruit on digestive and gut health functions.

Professor Margreet Vissers and Dr Anitra Carr, also from Otago University, said eating kiwifruit daily had been demonstrated as effective at increasing blood levels of vitamin C as well as levels in other parts of the body.

Dr Juliet Ansell, Zespri's innovation leader for health and nutrition, said the company simply could not communicate without the science.

"Consumers are really demanding this extra information.

"They're more aware of their health, they want to know what's in their food, and they they want to know why it's healthy for them."

Key symposium findings included:

* Kiwifruit regulates sugar highs and lows in your blood stream.

* For the first time in human clinical trials, Zespri Green kiwifruit has been found to improve digestive health function and comfort. This is through a unique combination of actinidin (a kiwifruit enzyme), fibre and other components.

* Kiwifruit boosts immunity. Eating kiwifruit daily is effective at increasing blood levels of vitamin C as well as levels in other parts of the body.