True or false: the science behind 7 ‘superfoods’

A list of superfoods and a deep dive into whether certain claims about them are true or false. Curcumin, maca root, cacao, zembrin, moringa & barley grass.


What is a superfood? In short, it’s a healthy food that packs some serious nutritional punch – that's the idea, anyway. But, quite often, ‘superfood’ ingredients are surrounded by controversy: it’s not uncommon to read one article claiming an ingredient has multiple benefits, only to come across another article that says the complete opposite. With this in mind, we’ve put together a common list of superfoods and taken a deep dive into whether certain claims about them are true or false.

Longvida® Curcumin

What is Longvida Curcumin?

Longvida Curcumin is a patented, award-winning ingredient that is 65-100 times more bioavailable than standard curcumin antioxidants. Longvida Curcumin is included in our MitoQ +curcumin capsules.

Common claims:

  • Longvida Curcumin has strong antioxidant properties: SUBSTANTIATED
  • Longvida Curcumin supports working memory and mood: SUBSTANTIATED

Antioxidants are substances that our bodies use to protect our cells against oxidative stress – a process where our cells come under free radical attack. One clinical trial found that 12 weeks of Longvida Curcumin supplementation reduced oxidative stress in participating adults. Based on this clinical trial, Curcumin has the potential to support the body as an effective antioxidant.

Two human trials have investigated the effects of Longvida Curcumin on working memory and mood – both finding an improvement in both areas. The first study, published in 2014, found that working memory improved just one hour after supplementation and that the working memory and mood of the participants were “significantly better following chronic treatment”. The second study, published in 2020, also concluded: “Longvida© improves aspects of mood and working memory in a healthy older cohort”.

Maca root

What is maca root?

Maca is a plant that mainly grows in Peru and is commonly used in Peruvian cooking. However, it has recently become hugely popular in the supplements market as a ‘superfood’ powder.

Common claims:

  • Maca increases libido: UNSUBSTANTIATED
  • Maca can support reproductive health: UNSUBSTANTIATED

While maca is a nutritious supplement (it’s rich in protein, vitamins and minerals), there is some controversy surrounding many of the health claims for this ‘superfood’. It has gained significant popularity in the Western world due to claims about its benefits on libido and reproduction. According to a 2018 review, there isn’t enough data to conclude whether there is any truth to these claims.

Furthermore, the review concludes “the indigenous local knowledge about the health benefits of maca has been dragged out of context to fit the demands of a growing market for herbal remedies.”


What is cinnamon?

Found in a variety of desserts, drinks and savories; cinnamon is a spice sourced from the bark of cinnamon trees (also known as “Cinnamomum”). Cinnamon can easily be found at most local supermarkets – it's also one of the spotlight ingredients in our MitoQ +blood sugar.

Common claims:

  • Cinnamon can support healthy cholesterol levels: SUBSTANTIATED
  • Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties: POSSIBLY - MORE STUDIES ARE NEEDED

When it comes to cinnamon’s effects on cholesterol, study results have been positive. A meta-analysis of 13 clinical trials concluded that “Cinnamon supplementation significantly reduced blood triglycerides (a type of fat found in blood) and total cholesterol concentrations”.

In a meta-analysis that investigated the impact of cinnamon supplementation on oxidative stress and inflammation reduction, it was concluded that cinnamon supplementation may serve as an adjuvant for reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. Based on this, cinnamon appears to have potential in both of these areas – but further studies are needed to confirm this.

Cocoa beans

Cacao powder

What is cacao powder?

Cacao is a seed that grows within large pods in cacao trees. Once processed, it can be converted into cocoa powder or chocolate. It can also be converted into raw cacao powder – a ‘superfood’ that has become increasingly popular among health enthusiasts.

Common claims:

  • Cacao is nutritionally dense: SUBSTANTIATED
  • Cacao is a natural mood elevator: UNSUBSTANTIATED

There are plenty of nutrients to be found in cacao powder, especially iron, protein, magnesium, potassium and fiber. It is also high in flavonoids - a natural substance found in plants that are often linked to healthy cognitive function. In one clinical trial, it was found that regular cocoa flavonoid consumption can reduce some measures of age-related cognitive dysfunction in elderly participants. However, this doesn’t mean that eating a block of chocolate a day will improve your cognitive function; as much as 90% of the flavonoids in cacao can be lost during the cocoa manufacturing process.

More studies are needed to confirm whether cacao has a significant influence on mood. Systematic reviews have been carried out on the subject, only to recommend that further exploration of the effect of chocolate on cognitive facilitation be carried out due to inconsistent results.

Zembrin® Kanna Extract

What is Zembrin® Kanna Extract?

Zembrin Kanna Extract is a botanical supplement taken from a succulent plant known as Kanna. This unique extract has been developed by an international team of scientists and physicians.

Common claims:

  • Zembrin can enhance cognitive function: SUBSTANTIATED
  • Zembrin can reduce anxiety: SUBSTANTIATED

Multiple clinical trials have investigated Zembrin’s effects on mental wellbeing – and the results are positive. Trials have found that Zembrin supplementation in healthy adults can improve cognitive function, decrease anxiety and may provide mood enhancement. Studies have also reported a connection between Zembrin supplementation and the ability to better cope with stress and sleep.

Moringa powder

What is moringa powder?

Moringa powder comes from the leaf of the moringa tree. It is used medicinally and as food within many cultures. Moringa powder is available within most health food stores in a capsule form or as a powder that can easily be added to smoothies.

Common claims:

  • Moringa can support your energy levels: SUBSTANTIATED
  • Moringa can support your mood: UNSUBSTANTIATED

Moringa contains many essential nutrients including calcium, antioxidants, iron, potassium and vitamins A, C and E. While it may provide nutritional benefits, there is still a lot that we don’t know about moringa – despite many common health claims.

There is some evidence that moringa can reduce fatigue in healthy adults - a human trial carried out on forty adult participants concluded “consumption of moringa seed extract is found effective in lowering the severity of fatigue... among the healthy working men and women of middle-aged subjects with somewhat severe symptoms”.

There are currently no human trials to support the claim that moringa supports mood. While existing studies show that moringa powder holds plenty of health potential, reviews all tend to conclude the same thing: that more human trials are needed to better understand moringa's health benefits.

Barley grass

What is barley grass?

Barley grass is a type of grain that comes from barley plants. It’s famous among superfoods and is commonly available within health food stores and juiceries.

Common claims:

  • Barley grass supports healthy digestion: UNSUBSTANTIATED
  • Barley grass supports bone health: UNSUBSTANTIATED

Dried barley grass contains a variety of nutrients including protein, vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, E, calcium and iron – just to name a few. Many articles link the nutrients found within barley grass to some pretty impressive health claims – but they don’t necessarily have the research to directly back this up.

While there is an obvious link between dietary fiber (contained in barley grass) and healthy digestion, studies that confirm barley grass as a significant digestion aid seem to have only been carried out on animals – not humans. Therefore, it might support healthy digestion – but whether or not barley grass can make a significant positive impact in this area is still up for debate.

The same goes for barley grass and bone health – popular articles claim that barley grass juice is “very beneficial for making our bones stronger”. However, this claim is based on the calcium contained within barley grass and currently doesn’t appear to be directly supported by human trials.

The science behind MitoQ

MitoQ – our cellular antioxidant – is supported by 12 human trials (and counting) and has been discussed in over 500 peer-reviewed papers. Learn more here.

Browse the MitoQ range

How to reduce stress in 5 minutes

Even just a few minutes of practicing these stress management tools each day can improve how your body copes with stress of all kinds.

Read more

8 Foods That Affect Adrenal Health

One of the best ways to manage your adrenal health is through a healthy, balanced diet. Here are the 8 best foods.

Read more