The loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is a tree native to China that's prized for its sweet, citrus-like fruit.
Loquats are small, round fruits that grow in clusters. Their color varies from yellow to red-orange, depending on the variety.
Loquat fruit, seeds, and leaves are packed with powerful plant compounds and have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years.
Recent research suggests that loquats may offer a variety of health benefits, including protection against some diseases.
Here are 7 surprising health benefits of loquats.
1. High in Nutrients
Loquats are low-calorie fruits that provide numerous vitamins and minerals, making them very nutritious.
One cup (149 grams) of cubed loquats contains (1):
- Calories: 70
- Carbs: 18 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Provitamin A: 46% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin B6: 7% of the DV
- Folate (vitamin B9): 5% of the DV
- Magnesium: 5% of the DV
- Potassium: 11% of the DV
- Manganese: 11% of the DV
These fruits are particularly high in carotenoid antioxidants, which prevent cellular damage and may protect against disease. Carotenoids are also precursors to vitamin A, which is essential for healthy vision, immune function, and cellular growth (2Trusted Source).
Additionally, loquats contain small amounts of vitamin C, thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), copper, iron, calcium, and phosphorus.
Loquats are low-calorie fruits that provide an array of nutrients, including provitamin A, several B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and manganese.
2. Packed With Plant Compounds
Loquats' plant compounds benefit your health in several ways.
For example, they're an excellent source of carotenoid antioxidants, including beta carotene — though darker, red or orange varieties tend to offer more carotenoids than paler ones (8Trusted Source).
A review of 7 studies also associated high beta carotene intake with a significantly lower risk of death from all causes, compared with low beta carotene intake (12Trusted Source).
What's more, loquats are rich in phenolic compounds, which possess antioxidant, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory properties and may help safeguard against several conditions, including diabetes and heart disease (13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).
Loquats are an excellent source of carotenoids and phenolic compounds, which offer plenty of health benefits.
3. May Promote Heart Health
Loquats may bolster heart health due to their concentration of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Carotenoids have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that help prevent plaque buildup in your arteries, which is the leading cause of heart disease and heart-disease-related death (21Trusted Source).
In fact, studies reveal that people who eat more carotenoid-rich foods have a significantly reduced risk of heart disease, compared with those who eat fewer of these foods (22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source).
Loquats are rich in potassium, magnesium, carotenoids, and phenolic compounds, all of which may boost heart health and protect against heart disease.
4. May Have Anticancer Properties
For instance, one test-tube study showed that extract from loquat fruit skins significantly inhibited the growth and spread of human bladder cancer cells (26).
Additionally, substances in loquats' skin and flesh, including carotenoids and phenolic compounds, are known to possess anticancer properties.
Beta carotene has exhibited cancer-fighting effects in both test-tube and animal studies, while chlorogenic acid — a phenolic compound — has been shown to suppress tumor growth in multiple test-tube studies (27Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source, 29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source).
Nonetheless, more studies on loquats are needed.
Though loquats may have anticancer properties, more research is necessary.
5. May Improve Metabolic Health
Loquats may improve metabolic health by reducing levels of triglycerides, blood sugar, and insulin — a hormone that helps move blood sugar into your cells to be used for energy.
Various parts of the loquat tree, including its leaves and seeds, have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat metabolic issues like high blood sugar (35Trusted Source).
However, human studies are necessary.
Loquat fruit, leaves, and seeds may benefit several aspects of metabolic health, but human studies are lacking.
6. May Offer Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Some research suggests that loquats have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
In a test-tube study, loquat juice significantly increased levels of an anti-inflammatory protein called interleukin-10 (IL-10) while significantly decreasing levels of two inflammatory proteins — interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) (42).
Additionally, a rodent study found that supplementing with loquat fruit extract reduced overall inflammation caused by a high-sugar diet and significantly lowered levels of endotoxins, a type of inflammatory substance, in the liver (43Trusted Source).
These potent anti-inflammatory effects are likely due to loquats' wide array of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. All the same, human research is needed.
Test-tube and animal research suggests that loquats may have powerful anti-inflammatory effects.
7. Versatile and Scrumptious
Loquats grow in semitropical environments. In these regions, they may be purchased from local farmers or even grown in backyards.
If you live in a colder climate, they're harder to find but may be available at specialty grocery stores depending on the time of year.
Loquats taste sweet, yet slightly tart, with notes of citrus. Be sure to choose fully ripe loquats, as immature fruit is sour. Ripe ones turn a bright yellow-orange and are soft to the touch.
As loquats rot quickly, you should eat them within a few days of purchase.
You can add them to your diet in a variety of ways, including:
- raw, paired with cheese or nuts as a snack
- tossed into a fruit salad
- stewed with maple syrup and cinnamon as a sweet topping for oatmeal
- baked into pies and cakes
- made into jam or jelly
- added to a smoothie alongside spinach, Greek yogurt, avocado, coconut milk, and frozen banana
- combined with peppers, tomatoes, and fresh herbs for a delectable salsa
- cooked and served with meat or poultry as a sweet side
- juiced for cocktails and mocktails
If you aren't planning on enjoying loquats immediately, you can refrigerate them for up to 2 weeks. You can also dehydrate, can, or freeze them to extend their shelf life (44).
Loquats' sweet, slightly tart taste pairs well with many dishes. These fruits are delicate and don't keep for long, so you may want to preserve them through freezing, canning, or dehydrating. You can also make them into jams and jellies.
The Bottom Line
Loquats are delicious fruits that offer a variety of health benefits.
They're low in calories but boast plenty of vitamins, minerals, and anti-inflammatory plant compounds.
Plus, some research suggests that they may safeguard against certain conditions, such as heart disease and cancer, as well as reduce blood sugar, triglyceride, and insulin levels.
If you're curious, try to find loquats at your local specialty store. You can also buy loquat tea, syrup, candy, and seedlings online.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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By Bob Jacobs
Hanako, a female Asian elephant, lived in a tiny concrete enclosure at Japan's Inokashira Park Zoo for more than 60 years, often in chains, with no stimulation. In the wild, elephants live in herds, with close family ties. Hanako was solitary for the last decade of her life.
Hanako, an Asian elephant kept at Japan's Inokashira Park Zoo; and Kiska, an orca that lives at Marineland Canada. One image depicts Kiska's damaged teeth. Elephants in Japan (left image), Ontario Captive Animal Watch (right image), CC BY-ND
Affecting Health and Altering Behavior<p>It is easy to observe the overall health and psychological consequences of life in captivity for these animals. Many captive elephants suffer from arthritis, obesity or skin problems. Both <a href="https://doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o2620.1826-36" target="_blank">elephants</a> and orcas often have severe dental problems. Captive orcas are plagued by <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2019.05.005" target="_blank">pneumonia, kidney disease, gastrointestinal illnesses and infections</a>.</p><p>Many animals <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.09.010" target="_blank">try to cope</a> with captivity by adopting abnormal behaviors. Some develop "<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.05.003" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stereotypies</a>," which are repetitive, purposeless habits such as constantly bobbing their heads, swaying incessantly or chewing on the bars of their cages. Others, especially big cats, pace their enclosures. Elephants rub or break their tusks.</p>
Changing Brain Structure<p>Neuroscientific research indicates that living in an impoverished, stressful captive environment <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2019.05.005" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">physically damages the brain</a>. These changes have been documented in many <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/cne.903270108" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">species</a>, including rodents, rabbits, cats and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/nimg.2001.0917" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">humans</a>.</p><p>Although researchers have directly studied some animal brains, most of what we know comes from observing animal behavior, analyzing stress hormone levels in the blood and applying knowledge gained from a half-century of neuroscience research. Laboratory research also suggests that mammals in a zoo or aquarium have compromised brain function.</p>
This illustration shows differences in the brain's cerebral cortex in animals held in impoverished (captive) and enriched (natural) environments. Impoverishment results in thinning of the cortex, a decreased blood supply, less support for neurons and decreased connectivity among neurons. Arnold B. Scheibel, CC BY-ND<p>Subsisting in confined, barren quarters that lack intellectual stimulation or appropriate social contact seems to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1590/S0001-37652001000200006" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">thin the cerebral cortex</a> – the part of the brain involved in voluntary movement and higher cognitive function, including memory, planning and decision-making.</p><p>There are other consequences. Capillaries shrink, depriving the brain of the oxygen-rich blood it needs to survive. Neurons become smaller, and their dendrites – the branches that form connections with other neurons – become less complex, impairing communication within the brain. As a result, the cortical neurons in captive animals <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/cne.901230110" target="_blank">process information less efficiently</a> than those living in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/dev.420020208" target="_blank">enriched, more natural environments</a>.</p>
An actual cortical neuron in a wild African elephant living in its natural habitat compared with a hypothesized cortical neuron from a captive elephant. Bob Jacobs, CC BY-ND<p>Brain health is also affected by living in small quarters that <a href="https://doi.org/10.3233/BPL-160040" target="_blank">don't allow for needed exercise</a>. Physical activity increases the flow of blood to the brain, which requires large amounts of oxygen. Exercise increases the production of new connections and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaw2622" target="_blank">enhances cognitive abilities</a>.</p><p>In their native habits these animals must move to survive, covering great distances to forage or find a mate. Elephants typically travel anywhere from <a href="https://www.elephantsforafrica.org/elephant-facts/#:%7E:text=How%20far%20do%20elephants%20walk,km%20on%20a%20daily%20basis." target="_blank">15 to 120 miles per day</a>. In a zoo, they average <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0150331" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">three miles daily</a>, often walking back and forth in small enclosures. One free orca studied in Canada swam <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-010-0958-x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">up to 156 miles a day</a>; meanwhile, an average orca tank is about 10,000 times smaller than its <a href="https://www.cascadiaresearch.org/projects/killer-whales/using-dtags-study-acoustics-and-behavior-southern" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">natural home range</a>.</p>
Disrupting Brain Chemistry and Killing Cells<p>Living in enclosures that restrict or prevent normal behavior creates chronic frustration and boredom. In the wild, an animal's stress-response system helps it escape from danger. But captivity traps animals with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1215502109" target="_blank">almost no control</a> over their environment.</p><p>These situations foster <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/rev0000033" target="_blank">learned helplessness</a>, negatively impacting the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/6391686" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hippocampus</a>, which handles memory functions, and the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.02.024" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">amygdala</a>, which processes emotions. Prolonged stress <a href="https://doi.org/10.3109/10253899609001092" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevates stress hormones</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.10-09-02897.1990" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">damages or even kills neurons</a> in both brain regions. It also disrupts the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2005.03.021" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">delicate balance of serotonin</a>, a neurotransmitter that stabilizes mood, among other functions.</p><p>In humans, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/nimg.2001.0917" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">deprivation</a> can trigger <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00367" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">psychiatric issues</a>, including depression, anxiety, <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00367" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mood disorders</a> or <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1073858409333072" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">post-traumatic stress disorder</a>. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-010-0288-3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Elephants</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0050139" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">orcas</a> and other animals with large brains are likely to react in similar ways to life in a severely stressful environment.</p>
Damaged Wiring<p>Captivity can damage the brain's complex circuitry, including the basal ganglia. This group of neurons communicates with the cerebral cortex along two networks: a direct pathway that enhances movement and behavior, and an indirect pathway that inhibits them.</p><p>The repetitive, <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2014.05.057" target="_blank">stereotypic behaviors</a> that many animals adopt in captivity are caused by an imbalance of two neurotransmitters, dopamine and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.02.004" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">serotonin</a>. This impairs the indirect pathway's ability to modulate movement, a condition documented in species from chickens, cows, sheep and horses to primates and big cats.</p>
The cerebral cortex, hippocampus and amygdala are physically altered by captivity, along with brain circuitry that involves the basal ganglia. Bob Jacobs, CC BY-ND<p>Evolution has constructed animal brains to be exquisitely responsive to their environment. Those reactions can affect neural function by <a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/311787/behave-by-robert-m-sapolsky/" target="_blank">turning different genes on or off</a>. Living in inappropriate or abusive circumstance alters biochemical processes: It disrupts the synthesis of proteins that build connections between brain cells and the neurotransmitters that facilitate communication among them.</p><p>There is strong evidence that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0577-11.2011" target="_blank">enrichment</a>, social contact and appropriate space in more natural habitats are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-1090.2003.tb02071.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">necessary</a> for long-lived animals with large brains such as <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0152490" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elephants</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/13880292.2017.1309858" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cetaceans</a>. Better conditions <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5543669/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reduce disturbing sterotypical behaviors</a>, improve connections in the brain, and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/cdd.2009.193" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">trigger neurochemical changes</a> that enhance learning and memory.</p>