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Health Benefits of Red Maca

Red Maca Benefits

Touted as one of the world's most powerful superfoods, red maca powder is made by drying and grinding red-skinned maca root which is primarily grown in high altitude regions of Peru. Although red maca root is closely related to other types of maca, research shows that it may have some unique health benefits. Read on to get the scoop on the potential benefits of red maca.

Red Maca Has Anti-Depressant Qualities

Red maca powder has been touted as a natural anti-depressant, but is there any scientific research to back up the claims about maca's mood-enhancing qualities? Turns out, there has been at least one study that has directly looked at the health effects of maca powder supplementation on psychological problems such as depression and anxiety in humans. Published in the journal Menopause, this study found that a daily dose of maca powder over a period of six weeks caused a significant reduction in anxiety and depression scores in postmenopausal women. [1] Another study, published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, looked at the effects of black, yellow and red maca on depression in ovariectomized female mice and found that all three varieties of maca had significant anti-depressant activity [2].

Protection Against Bone Loss

Due to decreases in estrogen levels, post-menopausal women have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, a disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone. As maca has a reputation for being capable of correcting hormonal imbalances, it is not surprising that researchers have shown interest in studying the potential of maca to prevent estrogen deficiency-induced osteoporosis. In one study, estrogen-deficient female rats were given either yellow, black or red maca for four weeks, after which the bone structure of the rats was analyzed. Both black and red maca provided protection against bone loss without increasing uterine size, with red maca providing the greatest benefit. [3]

Red Maca – A Natural Energy Booster

According to anecdotal evidence, red maca has energy-boosting properties, and a study published in the journal Pharmaceuticals in 2016 seems to back that up. This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that consumption of red maca for 12 weeks increased self-perception of energy in men and women living in Lima, the largest city of Peru. Also black maca was beneficial, but the effect was not quite as strong as with red maca. The same study also looked at the effects of red maca consumption in people living high up in the Andes mountains, but interestingly, the perceived energy-boosting effects of maca there did not differ significantly from the effects of the placebo. Previously, it has been shown that genetic signatures play a role in how people respond to placebo, and the researchers believe this might explain the differences between the two populations. [4]

Effects of Red Maca on Prostate Health

Several studies have investigated the effects of red maca on prostatic hyperplasia, or enlargement of the prostate gland, in rodents, and the results have been promising. In one of the earlier studies, red maca – but neither yellow nor black maca – significantly reduced prostate size in rats [5]. The results of that study are in line with two more recent studies, both of which found that red maca root powder reduced prostate weight in testosterone-induced prostatic hyperplasia in rats. The effect was dose-dependent, meaning that the higher the dose, the stronger the effect. [6, 7] Now, while all of that may seem like good news for the millions of men suffering from prostatic hyperplasia, it is important to keep in mind that results of rodent studies do not always translate to humans, and that more research is needed to explore the health benefits of red maca in men with prostate problems.

1. N. Brooks et al (2008). Beneficial effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on psychological symptoms and measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women are not related to estrogen or androgen content. Menopause. 15(6), 1157-62.
2. J. Rubio et al (2006). Effect of three different cultivars of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on learning and depression in ovariectomized mice. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 6: 23.
3. C. Gonzales et al (2010). Effects of different varieties of Maca (Lepidium meyenii) on bone structure in ovariectomized rats. Complementary Medicine Research, 17(3), 137-43.
4. C. Gonzales-Arimborgo et al (2016). Acceptability, Safety, and Efficacy of Oral Administration of Extracts of Black or Red Maca (Lepidium meyenii) in Adult Human Subjects: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Pharmaceuticals (Basel), 18;9(3).
5. G. Gonzales et al (2005). Red maca (Lepidium meyenii) reduced prostate size in rats. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 3: 5.
6. M. Gasco et al (2007). Dose-response effect of Red Maca (Lepidium meyenii) on benign prostatic hyperplasia induced by testosterone enanthate. Phytomedicine, 14(7-8), 460-464.
7. G. Gonzales et al (2007). Effect of two different extracts of red maca in male rats with testosterone-induced prostatic hyperplasia. Asian Journal of Andrology, 9(2):245-51.