(NaturalHealth365) Anthocyanins are a group of natural plant pigments found in vividly colored fruits and vegetables in the red/orange or purple/blue color spectrum. Produced in plants to protect against harsh temperatures, drought, ultraviolet light and infection, these flavonoids can offer powerful health benefits to humans as well.
Researchers are crediting anthocyanins with a laundry list of disease-fighting effects – including antioxidant, antimicrobial, cell-protective, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, lipid-lowering, and neuroprotective properties.
Keep reading this special report to discover the many health benefits offered by these delicious foods.
Anthocyanins help combat obesity
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two out of three Americans are overweight or obese. Not only does excess poundage increase inflammation and cellular aging, but it raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis and some cancers.
Anthocyanins increase the activity of specific genes called PPARs – which help the body utilize sugars and fats and prevent them from accumulating in the blood. They also increase production of the anti-obesity hormone adiponectin.
When mice being fed high-fat diets were also given anthocyanin extracts, researchers found that the polyphenols prevented both obesity and dyslipidemia, or abnormal levels of fats in the blood.
Anthocyanins have powerful effects against cardiovascular disease
Anthocyanins increase the availability of beneficial nitric oxide, while reducing the “stickiness” of blood platelets, thereby helping to prevent atherosclerosis and inhibiting clot formation. They also help to lower blood pressure and protect the structure and function of delicate blood vessels, reducing capillary permeability and fragility. In addition, anthocyanins raise levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol while reducing levels of harmful LDL cholesterol.
Epidemiological studies have clearly shown the health benefits of anthocyanin-rich diets. In one landmark study known as the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, 43,880 healthy men were followed for 24 years. Researchers found that increased anthocyanin intake could prevent close to 1 in 5 men from having a non-fatal heart attack.
In the 16-year-long Iowa Women’s Health Study – which involved 34,480 postmenopausal women – consuming strawberries and blueberries once a week was associated with a significant reduction in death from heart disease.
Anthocyanins can help prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
Anthocyanins prevent neurological disease by inhibiting the formation of beta-amyloid protein, a substance associated with Alzheimer’s disease. They also improve neuronal cellular communication, improve blood flow to the brain and protect brain mitochondria from oxidative stress. In addition, they reduce excitotoxicity – harmful effects from overstimulated brain cells, which is also associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
In one recent study, mice were treated for seven days with anthocyanins, then given pro-inflammatory substances of the kind that produce changes similar to those seen in Alzheimer’s disease. The anthocyanin-treated mice showed significantly less oxidative stress and inflammation in their brains compared to control mice who had not received anthocyanins.
Don’t overlook the anticancer effect of anthocyanins
By activating special detoxifying enzymes, anthocyanins help to metabolize carcinogens. They also act aggressively against cancer by preventing cancer cell proliferation, inducing apoptosis – or cancer cell “suicide” – and inhibiting the formation of new blood vessels that nourish tumor growth.
Bonus: Anthocyanins can help us to AVOID diabetes
Anthocyanins have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and enhance glucose metabolism, a health boon that can help prevent the onset of diabetes.
In a meta-analysis involving over 400,000 participants, researchers found that those with the highest anthocyanin intake were 15 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
How can I boost my intake of anthocyanins?
Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, bilberries and strawberries are rich sources of anthocyanins. If you’re not a berry aficionado, don’t forget: anthocyanins can also be found in good supply in red cabbage, black plums, Concord grapes, dark cherries, purple sweet potatoes and purple corn.
As natural healers and naturopaths have been maintaining all along, consuming a “rainbow” of (naturally-produced) colors – by way of fresh, organic produce – is essential for good health.
However, even the healthiest of diets can’t provide as many health-giving anthocyanins as are found in supplements and extracts. If you would like to try supplementary anthocyanins, it’s always a good idea to get the ‘go-ahead’ from a trusted, healthcare provider – who can advise you on proper dosage.