Public Summary

Principal Investigator: Dr Andrea Braakhuis, The University of Auckland
Collaborating Organisations: Ārepa Limited
High-Value Nutrition funding: $122,160


Development of an anti-pollution sports drink and its efficacy for active individuals


High-Value Nutrition (HVN) National Science Challenge and industry partner Ārepa have awarded Dr Andrea Braakhuis from the University of Auckland $122,160 of funding for a 24-month project.

The project will develop and test a new anti-pollution smart drink to combat the effects of air pollution and improve aspects of performance.

Anti-pollution food products

 Air pollution, including smog and ozone, has been estimated to be responsible for several millions of deaths worldwide each year, the majority of which are attributed to cardiovascular causes.

Regular aerobic exercise is recommended by physicians to improve health and longevity. However, people exercising in urban regions are often in contact with air pollution, which includes particles and gases associated with respiratory distress, poor lung function and irritation.

Anti-pollution food products are experiencing significant growth in recent years due to worsening air quality world-wide. There is also increasing awareness and concern regarding the impact of various environmental pollutants on cardiovascular and lung function.

To date, little is known about how air pollution and exercise together affect lung function, and to what extent dietary or specific products nutritional properties can offset the negative effects of air pollution.

Researching neurological benefits of blackcurrants

 Dr Braakhuis and her team will work with industry partner Ārepa Limited, a New Zealand-based food-technology company that currently produces a ‘natural smart drink’, which is already popular because of its positive cognitive and health benefits. One of the main ingredients in Ārepa is Neuroberry blackcurrants, which is a specific variant of the berry that is unique to Aotearoa New Zealand.

Blackcurrants are amongst the top dietary sources of anthocyanins and other bioactive phytochemical. These naturally occurring compounds  have been reported to protect against exercise-induced oxidative stress in humans, and to benefit cardiovascular health and lung function.

“We propose to develop and test a smart drink containing key nutrients thought to improve athletic performance and lung function. The idea is to support those exercising and living in polluted environments. We believe that incorporating the exercising public into our study, will allow research to be conducted on a poorly investigated topic and assist the development of a new smart drink to assist the exercising public to better deal with air pollution,” says lead researcher Dr Andrea Braakhuis.

Data from previous studies has shown improvements in cognitive function in athletes given Ārepa, and, more importantly, athletic performance is improved when taking New Zealand blackcurrant anthocyanins.

“The anthocyanin-rich berries grown in Aotearoa New Zealand are anti-inflammatory and contain bioactive compounds that may support lung function for those exercising in polluted environments.

We propose to develop a product with blackcurrant and other ingredients that are likely to support optimal athletic performance and lung function. This will be an extension to the current successful product line of Ārepa.” says Dr Braakhuis.


“We are honoured to be a part of the High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge Programme. It’s been a goal for a number of years to undertake clinical and novel research like this.

We exist to feed the brain and body in the modern world and represent the best of Aotearoa New Zealand on the world stage and this exciting study is going to help us on that journey,” says founder and CEO of Ārepa Angus Brown.

“This project will develop research expertise in New Zealand and develop opportunities for export for Ārepa Limited.

This fits well with the strategic direction of HVN in the Immune Health stream, as it specifically targets the effects of air pollution on lung function, immunity and inflammatory processes,” says Joanne Todd, HVN National Science Challenge Director.

Research team

Dr Andrea Braakhuis

Andrea is a registered dietitian with a research interest in the clinical and health application of dietary antioxidants and phytochemicals.

Once a Senior Sport Dietitian for the United States Olympic Committee, Andrea is now Academic Director for the Masters of Health Science in Nutrition & Dietetics at the University of Auckland.