Purpose: To describe the nutritional and health attributes of kiwifruit and the benefits relating to improved nutritional status, digestive, immune and metabolic health. The review includes a brief history of green and gold varieties of kiwifruit from an ornamental curiosity from China in the 19th century to a crop of international economic importance in the 21st century; comparative data on their nutritional composition, particularly the high and distinctive amount of vitamin C; and an update on the latest available scientific evidence from well-designed and executed human studies on the multiple beneficial physiological effects. Of particular interest are the digestive benefits for healthy individuals as well as for those with constipation and other gastrointestinal disorders, including symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. The mechanisms of action behind the gastrointestinal effects, such as changes in faecal (stool) consistency, decrease in transit time and reduction of abdominal discomfort, relate to the water retention capacity of kiwifruit fibre, favourable changes in the human colonic microbial community and primary metabolites, as well as the naturally present proteolytic enzyme actinidin, which aids protein digestion both in the stomach and the small intestine. The effects of kiwifruit on metabolic markers of cardiovascular disease and diabetes are also investigated, including studies on glucose and insulin balance, bodyweight maintenance and energy homeostasis.
Conclusions: The increased research data and growing consumer awareness of the health benefits of kiwifruit provide logical motivation for their regular consumption as part of a balanced diet. Kiwifruit should be considered as part of a natural and effective dietary strategy to tackle some of the major health and wellness concerns around the world.
Keywords: Digestive health; Kiwifruit; Metabolic benefits; Nutritional composition; Vitamin C.