The Nanche Rojo (Malpighia mexicana) and Its Antioxidant Potential

Also known as Mexican acerola, red cherry, or manzanita, among other names, the nanche rojo (Malpighia mexicana) is a fruit native to Mexico and Central America. Find out more about this exotic and functional fruit.

The Nanche Rojo (Malpighia mexicana) and Its Antioxidant Potential
El nanche rojo (Malpighia mexicana): an exotic, functional fruit with commercial potential in Mexico. Photo: CIAD

The nanche rojo (Malpighia mexicana), also known as acerola mexicana, cereza colorada or manzanita, among other names, is a fruit native to Mexico and Central America. In Mexico it is distributed in Chiapas, Durango, Morelos, Estado de México, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Puebla and Yucatán. This species is a food source for local people and is only found in the wild. It is ethnopharmacologically recognized for its medicinal uses against stomach ailments, diabetes, and scurvy.

Its phytochemical and functional study is still unknown; however, studies have been conducted on acerola (Malpighia glabra), native to Brazil, which is very similar to the Mexican species, highlighting its contribution of amino acids, carotenoids, phenolic acids, anthocyanins, and other flavonoids, which have been shown to have antioxidant activity. Nanche rojo is an excellent source of vitamin C; its concentration is so high that it exceeds thirty to one hundred times the content present in oranges.

For these reasons, this fruit can be classified as a functional food. In fact, in the pharmaceutical industry nanche rojo is used as an ingredient in food supplements for its functional activities as an immune system stimulant, anti-inflammatory, antihyperglycemic, antitumor, antigenotoxic and hepatoprotective. Acerola is widely cultivated for food purposes for the production of juices, pulps, and jams. Brazil is the world's number one producer, which leaves large economic spillovers for that country.

In this context, it is very important to identify, protect, cultivate, diversify, disseminate, research, and commercialize species native to Mexico, such as the nanche rojo, which is a fruit with a high commercialization potential for different industries, as was observed in the example of acerola. Currently, nanche rojo is only found in the wild, which means that all the nutritional and nutraceutical potential of this food is wasted, reducing the food and nutritional security of unprotected areas of the country.

Few pieces of research have been published on this subject, among which those of Bárcenas-López, Maldonado-Peralta, and Tena-Meza stand out, where it has been stated that Mexico is fertile territory for the cultivation of nanche rojo and that it is potentially marketable.

Currently, the first research is being carried out in Culiacán to determine the functional potential and phytochemical content of the nanche rojo, which is expected to be equal to or better than Brazilian acerola. With this, knowledge can be disseminated to potential producers, as well as generate markets to develop functional foods that meet the needs of Mexican consumers.

By Gloria Stephanie Gutiérrez González, internship student, Luis Alfonso Jiménez Ortega, M.Sc. student, and academicians Martín Tena Meza and José Basilio Heredia. Source: CIAD