Initial Posting: 7/19/11 Updated: 7/26/11
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What It Is:
Baobab (Adansonia digitata) is a tree native to West Africa. The baobab tree is known by many names, including the monkey bread tree, cream of tartar tree, and "the upside down tree." It produces a large, gourd-shaped fruit which contains a soft powdery pulp and kidney shaped seeds.
Baobab fruit pulp has many traditional uses -- it is eaten as a sweet, used to make ice cream, consumed as a refreshing drink, or used as an alternative to cream of tartar in baking recipes. Traditional uses of the whole fruit outside of Africa are rare, as it is typically dried and processed for export into a fine powder to be used as a food or dietary ingredient.
Dried baobab fruit pulp was approved for use as a food additive in Europe in 2008. In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that dried baobab fruit pulp was "Generally Recognized as Safe" (GRAS) for use as an ingredient in blended fruit drinks at a level of up to 10% and up to 15% in fruit cereal bars.
Oil from baobab seed is used in various cosmetic products.
What It Contains:
Baobab fruit pulp is rich in fiber and sugar, vitamin C, calcium, potassium and magnesium. It has a tangy taste that is both tart and sweet. Based on information submitted to the FDA, 10 grams of baobab fruit pulp powder (the maximum amount permitted in a 100 gram smoothie and about two-thirds of the maximum amount permitted in a cereal bar, for example) contains the following approximate amounts of nutrients:
||5 grams (primarily as soluble fiber)
These nutrients from 10 grams of baobab dried fruit powder provide about 12.5% of the daily adult reference intake (DRI) for vitamin C, 4% for potassium, 5% to 12.5% for iron (for women and men, respectively), 3% for calcium, and very little of the requirements for B vitamins. (Amounts will vary depending on the source and preparation of the material.)
What It Does:
Baobab fruit pulp has been used traditionally as a food and is a good source of soluble fiber. It demonstrates significant antioxidant activity in the laboratory and is being touted as a new, exotic "superfruit." Marketers claim its ORAC (antioxidant) value is double that of pomegranate and cranberries and significantly greater than fruits such as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. As with many other fruits that have been marketed as "superfruits," there is no data on its antioxidant activity in the body. There is also little clinical scientific information available for baobab fruit pulp in the treatment or prevention of diseases.
How Baobab Dried Fruit Pulp is Sold:
In the U.S., baobab fruit pulp is sold as powder to manufacturers for use in manufacturing food products and dietary supplements in a variety of forms with potentially varying quality. The ingredient supplier BI Nutraceuticals claims the powder it sells
is sterilized using super-heated, dry steam to ensure the material is free of any potential pathogens, while preserving all of the healthful properties of the fruit powder.
Another company, Baobab Foods, is selling food bars and a fruit powder
made from baobab dried fruit powder that seems to be prepared somewhat differently than the material sold by BI Nutraceuticals. Baobab Foods (which calls baobab "The King of Superfruits" and "Nature's Nutritional Miracle") claims that the fruit pulp is "simply separated from the seeds and sieved before packing. The fruit is not pasteurized, heat extracted, freeze dried or concentrated so the nutrient synergy is not compromised. Baobab fruit powder is an unprocessed, whole food..."
A "certified organic" baobab dried fruit pulp
produced by Baobab Fruit Company Senegal is being distributed in the U.S. by Tiger Botanicals along with a variety of baobab products.
A Baobab dietary supplement is currently being sold in the U.S. under the Solaray brand. The Supplement Facts panel states that each vegetarian capsule contains 425 mg of Baobab fruit pulp (although the front label reads "Baobab "450 mg per capsule".) While the labeling of this product is inconsistent and misleading, the recommended 2 capsules per day would provide a little less than a gram of dried fruit pulp, contributing roughly half a gram of fiber per day and very little in terms of vitamin and mineral requirements (about one-tenth of the amounts shown above for a 10 gram serving).
Concerns and Cautions:
Baobab fruit pulp is generally considered to be safe as a food ingredient. However, due to its very high fiber content (approximately 50%), baobab fruit pulp may have a laxative effect. As noted earlier, 10 grams of baobab dried fruit pulp contains 5 grams of fiber (3 grams of which is soluble fiber), which is comparable to the amount fiber in a single standard dose of psyllium
taken as a laxative.
Baobab dried fruit pulp may contain low concentrations of cyanide and appreciable concentrations of the organic acid oxalic acid, but the exposures to these substances based on the amounts of baobab permitted in foods would not pose a risk to human health. The amounts in supplements would be even lower.
It is believed that baobab has little or no allergic potential.
Baobab fruit pulp is being introduced as a new food ingredient and is available as a supplement. Its tangy taste, high fiber content and antioxidant properties may make it attractive for some. However, specific health benefits have not been established. Although generally safe, consuming moderate to large amounts has a potential laxative effect.
Agency Response Letter GRAS Notice No. GRN 000273 CFSAN/Office of Food Additive Safety (July 25, 2009). Office of Food Additive Safety, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
(accessed May 17, 2011).
Baobab Dried Fruit Pulp - Claim of Exemption From the Requirement for Premarket Approval Pursuant to Proposed, FDA website
. (Dec 17, 2008) (accessed May 17, 2011).
Baobab Foods Website
(accessed July 14, 2011).
"BI Nutraceuticals now offering baobab fruit powder," NPI Center, May 3, 2011
(accessed July 14, 2011).