What is Anthocyanin and Should You Include Them in Your Diet?

by Matt Weik

If you are a berry-lover, you might be aware of how these tiny berries are full of powerful antioxidants and the incredible health benefits they offer.

Fruits and vegetables are a part of a balanced diet, but do you know that you can get health benefits from food items with a vibrant purple hue? Anthocyanin is one of the best examples. Let’s see what’s so special about anthocyanin and why you should incorporate it into your nutrition plan.

What is Anthocyanin?

Anthocyanin is an antioxidant that belongs to the flavonoid family (the same family as found in wine, dark chocolate, and tea). Flavonoids are a part of polyphenol, which help prevent and treat health conditions related to oxidative stress and inflammation, including things like cancer, heart disease, and more.

Anthocyanin is derived from plants and is commonly used for dyes, food colorants, and additives. It is commonly found in red, purple, and blue fruits and vegetables.

Undoubtedly, anthocyanins can be an excellent addition to your diet. It is not just packed with nutrients but is extremely delicious.

Food Sources That Contain Anthocyanin

Here are a few fruits and veggies that contain anthocyanins (per 100 grams):

  • Mulberries: 1.4-704 mg
  • Black Elderberries: 17-463 mg
  • Strawberries: 4-48 mg
  • Red Raspberries: 5-38 mg
  • Blueberries: 11-26 mg
  • Red Wine: 4-10 mg
  • Red Onions: 7 mg

Apart from that, items like black carrot, cabbage, purple corn, and more can provide anthocyanins around 200-300 mg per 100 grams. The anthocyanin content varies mostly because of area, climate, temperature, and many other factors. To maximize anthocyanin consumption, make sure to eat it in the raw form.

The Health Benefits Associated with Anthocyanins

Below are some of the benefits generally associated with the consumption of foods that contain anthocyanins.

1.      Reduce Inflammation

As per studies, anthocyanins help in reducing inflammation. A study on people with high cholesterol shows that people supplementing with 320 mg of anthocyanins twice a day had a reduction in inflammation.

The consumption of anthocyanins also helps reduce health conditions caused by chronic inflammation like type-2 diabetes, heart conditions, and more. Including anthocyanins in your nutrition plan can also protect you from various diseases.

2.      Improve Brain Function

According to the studies, anthocyanins help improve brain function, as it aids in boosting memory, attention, and processing speed.

A review says that anthocyanins help to improve verbal learning in children and adults with cognitive disorders.

If you’re looking for something to help protect your memory, improve coordination, and neural function, start adding foods high in anthocyanins to your daily nutrition plan.

3.      Improve Heart Health

Having a balanced diet rich in anthocyanins can help in improving your heart health. A study found that drinking 200 ml of cherry juice (rich in natural anthocyanins) can help in regulating blood pressure.

Additionally, a review found that a diet rich in anthocyanins can reduce the risk of heart diseases by around 9%.

4.      Reduce the Risk of Cancer

Studies say that anthocyanins contain strong cancer-fighting abilities. Also, these properties help in cancer treatment. Anthocyanins help in preventing the cancer cells from multiplying and spreading throughout the body. Also, it helps activate genes that may help kill prostate cancer cells.

What Are the Symptoms of an Anthocyanin Deficiency?

There are no proper studies to back the symptoms of anthocyanins deficiency. But let’s say, if your body doesn’t get enough antioxidant compounds or anti-inflammatory compounds, you may notice:

  • Fatigue and slow recovery from illness.
  • Unclear thinking or various cognitive issues.
  • Slow muscle recovery after a physical exercise.

Potential Side Effects of Anthocyanins

Though anthocyanins are generally considered safe, supplementing with too many may lead to various issues. It is basically because the anthocyanin supplements provide polyphenols in larger quantities than what you will get from sources found in a healthy diet.

A study on animals shows that supplementing with a high dose of anthocyanins may damage the kidneys, cause tumors, or lead to unbalance in thyroid hormones.

Another study shows that polyphenol supplements interact with various medications and may lower the absorption of nutrients in the diet.

Should You Be Using or Supplementing with Anthocyanins?

Anthocyanins can help in treating various health conditions and improving overall health.

There are various anthocyanins supplements available on the market, but it is recommended to obtain it from whole foods whenever possible, as it is rich in various other health-promoting nutrients as well.

Anthocyanins In Blueberries: More Muscle and Less Fat (study)

Blueberries, and also cherries and grapes, contain phenols which are known to chemists as anthocyanins. According to nutritionists at the American department of agriculture, these compounds have a body recompositioning effect. They reduce the amount of fat and increase lean body mass.

Anthocyanins in blueberries: more muscle and less fat

Study

The researchers did an experiment with mice that lasted 72 days. The animals were given a low-fat [LF] or a high-fat [HF] diet. Some of the animals were given a blueberry juice supplement [BBJ], others were given pure anthocyanins extracted from blueberries and dissolved in their drinking water [ACN]. The ACN group were given 0.2 mg anthocyanins per ml drinking water.

The researchers were looking for anti-obesity effects, and found these in both groups. The tables below show that anthocyanins supplementation in particular had a qualitative effect on the mice’s weight gain. The blueberry extract helped the mice to gain more lean body mass and less fat.

Meer spieren en minder vet door anthocyanines uit blauwe bosbessen

Meer spieren en minder vet door anthocyanins uit blauwe bosbessen

Insulin
The researchers were able to work out how the blueberry effect worked by examining the mice’s blood. The anthocyanins in the berries improved the insulin functioning. At least, the mice needed less insulin and their fat cells produced less leptin. Fat cells produce leptin when they grow.

Putting it all together, it seems that anthocyanins enhance the effect of insulin in the muscle cells rather than in the fat cells. [We wonder – should we classify anthocyanins as AMPK-boosters?]

The anthocyanins ensure that the muscles slurp up most of the glucose from the blood, preventing the fat cells from growing too. That’s why the supplementation has most effect in the low-fat diet group. The effect is even clearer when the researchers put 1 mg anthocyanins instead of 0.2 mg in a millilitre of drinking water.

Meer spieren en minder vet door anthocyanines uit blauwe bosbessen

Cyanidin-3-Glucoside

In the high-fat diet group the higher dose of anthocyanins has no effect on the fat layers, but in the low-fat diet group the fat layer halves.

Cyanidin-3-Glucoside
The composition of the anthocyanins that the researchers used is shown below. Compound 5 is the shaded one. The cyanidin-3-glucoside [structural formula shown above] is the active ingredient in Indigo-3G, Biotest’s body recompositioning supplement.

Anthocyanins in blueberries: more muscle and less fat

Source:
J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Apr 14;58(7):3970-6.

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