Maca (Lepidium meyenii Walpers) has emerged as a popular functional plant food due to various claimed health effects. This review details the major (i.e., starch, dietary fiber, and protein) and minor constituents (i.e., minerals, non-starch polysaccharides, polyphenols (flavonolignans), macaenes, macamides, glucosinolates, and alkaloids) of maca (root and aerial parts). Diverse health effects of maca are also summarized. Various bioactivities of maca include enhanced reproductive health, antifatigue, antioxidation, neuroprotection, antimicrobial activity, anticancer, hepatoprotection, immunomodulation, and improving skin health and digestive system's function. Plant genetics, botanical parts, processing, extraction, and experimental protocols represent the major factors affecting the chemical composition, physicochemical attributes, and health effects of maca-based products. However, clinical studies to support the claimed health effects of maca and related mechanisms appear to be lacking. Product innovation and diversification in food and non-food utilization of different parts of maca to maximize the value perceptions are suggested.
Keywords: Antioxidant; Bioactivity; Chemical analysis; Health-promoting; Lepidium peruvianum; Polyphenol; Underutilized species.
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