What is it? Illawarra plums are unusual because of their external seed. The fruit is botanically known as a swollen pedicel or stem and the tree, along with several related species, is found along the eastern seaboard of Australia. They are an ancient genus with separate male and female trees. There’s a botanist’s joke – how do you tell the gender of trees? You look down their trunks. (Sorry about that).
Whats in it? Anthocyanins, mucopolysaccharides (soluble fibre), fat-fighting components which appear to block fat storage by inhibiting the progression of fat beta cells to mature adipose tissue and a state where they begin storing fat. This work was done at the CSIRO Human Nutrition Department which is now defunct (Tony Abbott thought that ignorance is better than education and without science we don’t have Climate Change – and he was voted in as PM???). Anyway. Without fat cells maturing to a condition in which they can actually store fat we have a situation where we just can’t get fat as there is nowhere to store it. What a weight loss solution.
Researcher Izabela Konczak (also at the CSIRO at the time but in Sydney) tested extracts of Illawarra plum against cancer cells in tissue culture and found that the extract reduced the growth of the cells and switched on what is called apoptosis or programmed cell death. This is all good news in the search for new therapeutics against rogue cells that disrupt our normal processes and grow to form tumours.
For anyone wanting a dose of scientific jargon, may I refer you to Erin L. Symonds, Izabela Konczak and Michael Fenech; The Australian fruit Illawarra plum (Podocarpus elatus Endl., Podocarpaceae) inhibits telomerase, increases histone deacetylase activity and decreases proliferation of colon cancer cells. British Journal of Nutrition (2013), 109, 2117–2125