The Benefits of Anthocyanins


blueberries are a source of anthocyanins
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Anthocyanins are a type of flavonoid, a class of compounds with antioxidant effects. Found naturally in a number of foods, anthocyanins are the pigments that give red, purple, and blue plants their rich coloring. In addition to acting as antioxidants and fighting free radicals, anthocyanins may offer anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer benefits.

In herbal medicine, anthocyanin-rich substances have long been used to treat a number of conditions (including high blood pressure, colds, and urinary tract infections).

Recent research suggests that anthocyanins may also help fend off major health problems, including heart disease and cancer.

Food Sources

Anthocynanins are found in berries, red onions, kidney beans, pomegranates, grapes (including wine), tomatoes, acai, bilberry, chokeberry, elderberry, and tart cherries.

Research on Anthocyanins

Here's a look at several key findings on anthocyanins and their health effects:

1) Heart Disease

Anthocyanins may enhance heart health, according to a 2010 report published in Nutrition Reviews. The report's authors note that anthocyanins appear to improve cholesterol levels and blood sugar metabolism, as well as fight oxidative stress (a process known to play a role in heart disease).

Dietary intake of anthocyanins may also help prevent high blood pressure (a major risk factor for heart disease), according to a 2011 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

2) Obesity

Preliminary research suggests that anthocyanins may protect against obesity. In a 2008 study from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists found that mice fed an anthocyanin-enriched high-fat diet for eight weeks gained less weight than mice fed a high-fat diet without anthocyanins.

3) Cancer

Anthocyanins may aid in the prevention of breast cancer, according to a laboratory study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2010. In test-tube experiments, scientists showed that anthocyanins extracted from blueberries helped inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells.

Using Anthocyanins for Health

Getting your fill of anthocyanin-rich fruits and vegetables may help boost your overall health by offering up an array of nutrients. However, scientists have yet to determine whether taking high concentrations of anthocyanins in supplement form can help treat or prevent any specific health condition.

Keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

You can get tips on using supplements here, but if you're considering the use of anthocyanins, talk with your primary care provider first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.


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Cassidy A, O'Reilly ÉJ, Kay C, Sampson L, Franz M, Forman JP, Curhan G, Rimm EB. "Habitual intake of flavonoid subclasses and incident hypertension in adults." Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Feb;93(2):338-47.

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Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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