Anthocyanins have been reported as having the capacity to lower blood pressure, improve visual acuity, reduce cancer cell proliferation, inhibit tumor formation, prevent diabetes, lower the risk of CVD modulate cognitive and motor function. These are also reported to have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial activity.
1. Protect eyesight
Anthocyanins have strong oxidizing properties, can protect vitamin A from oxidation, increase the content of vitamin A on the retina, and play an important role in the synthesis of rhodopsin. Therefore, taking anthocyanins can improve eyesight and improve vision. .
2. Repair the skin
Anthocyanins make the skin smooth and elastic by inhibiting elastase and collagenase, and prevent skin damage caused by excessive sun exposure both from the inside and the outside.
3. Enhance memory
Studies have found that anthocyanins can also improve memory. The memory of middle-aged and elderly people declines quickly. Taking anthocyanins can enhance memory and make the minds of the elderly clearer. People with poor learning ability can also improve their learning ability by appropriately supplementing anthocyanins, so that the brain's learning ability and memory ability can be enhanced.
Because anthocyanins are bioflavonoids, the most important physiological activity of this substance is free radical scavenging and antioxidant capacity, so anthocyanins can have a good anti-wrinkle and anti-aging effect.
5. Protect the cardiovascular system
Because anthocyanins have strong antioxidant properties, they have a protective effect on cholesterol in blood vessels. It can reduce the formation of high-density cholesterol in blood vessels, clear the formed thrombus, and prevent atherosclerosis.
Anthocyanins have good anti-inflammatory effects. Anthocyanins have the effects of promoting wound healing and killing sterilization. Anthocyanins also exhibit anti-inflammatory effects on the human body, and have good effects on the treatment of arthritis, stroke, and skin trauma infections.
During a cold, eating foods with high anthocyanins can have a certain killing effect on cold germs, enhance the body’s immunity, reduce the number of colds and shorten the duration of colds.
Anthocyanins found in plants have a wide range of usage. Blue, red, and purple colored pigments extracted from flowers, fruits, and vegetables are traditionally used as dye and food colorant. Besides being used as natural colorants, some of the anthocyanin-rich flowers and fruits have been traditionally used as medicine to treat various diseases. On the other hand, plant anthocyanins have been widely studied for their medicinal values. Anthocyanins possess antidiabetic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-obesity effects, as well as prevention of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) . Therefore, anthocyanins extracted from edible plants are potential pharmaceutical ingredients.
Hundreds of scientific studies show that anthocyanins have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties (Wang 2008) making them useful to protect health in general, but particularly suited to protecting skin from sun damage that contributes to skin aging and cancer (Rojo 2013). Even so, there are currently no dietary intake recommendations (Cerletti 2017). However, the significance of anthocyanins to health has been so well recognized that two studies spanning 10 years were funded by the European Union (EU) [i.e. the FLORA (FLavonoids and related phenolics for healthy living using ORally recommended Antioxidants) and ATHENA (AnTHocyanin and polyphenol bioactives for Health Enhancement through Nutritional Advancement)] (Cerletti 2017). These studies and others, have confirmed that anthocyanins provide natural sun protection through the following means:
Improved Anti-oxidant Capacity
The most important accelerator of skin aging is UV radiation exposure. A single exposure to intense radiation triggers various inflammatory pathways and oxidative damage, while repeated exposure leads to accelerated skin aging (photo-aging), thickened skin, and precancerous lesions. In addition, repeated exposure causes excessive formation of typically necessary enzymes called metalloproteinases (MMP), which when present at abnormally elevated levels, degrade skin collagen and elastin, leading to wrinkles (Rojo 2013).
Anthocyanins reduce MMP production (Wang 2008). They also protect against UV skin damage by inactivating highly reactive molecules such as free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) formed during sun exposure that start a chain reaction producing significant cell and tissue damage. As well, they increase levels of Phase II detoxification enzymes (anti-oxidant proteins) including glutathione S-transferase, that help eliminate toxins, and reduce lipid peroxidation (fat damage) and DNA damage that can trigger cancer formation (Wang 2008).
Anthocyanins are blue, red, or purple pigments found in plants, especially flowers, fruits, and tubers. In acidic condition, anthocyanin appears as red pigment while blue pigment anthocyanin exists in alkaline conditions.
Anthocyanins are found in high concentrations in blackcurrants, blackberries and blueberries, as well as in aubergine (in the skin), red cabbage, cranberries and cherries.
Blueberries are a useful source of vitamin C, which helps protect cells and aids the absorption of iron, and contain soluble fibre, which is beneficial to the digestive system. Read more about the health benefits of blueberries.
A study in the European Journal of Nutrition found that a supplement containing dried blueberry powder improved brain power in children aged 7 to 10. Research from Tufts University suggests that consuming a blueberry supplement may be effective in improving or delaying short-term memory loss in rats.
However, the NHS points out that the existing studies into how blueberries might prevent cancer or improve memory have so far relied on small sample groups or animals, and it is not yet clear whether these findings will translate to larger groups of the human population. Read more from the NHS about the nutritional benefits of blueberries.
Somewhere between red and purple, the jewel-like colour of pomegranate is a consequence of its anthocyanin content. Pomegranate is a good source of fibre, and also provides vitamins A, C and E, iron, and other antioxidants such as tannins.
One study found that pomegranate helped to strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis in mice through decreased inflammation and oxidative stress.Another study found that consuming 50ml of pomegranate juice per day reduced damage to arteries and cut cholesterol build-up in people with narrowed arteries.
A further study found that a daily glass of pomegranate juice improved blood flow to the heart, resulting in a lower risk of heart attack. However, the NHS points out that as it was a very limited trial these positive results could have been down to chance.
Purple sweet potato
Purple sweet potatoes have recently been in the media spotlight. They are commonly eaten on the Japanese island of Okinawa, which is home to an exceptionally healthy elderly population – with a large number over the age of 100, and rates of dementia reported to be up to 50% lower than in the West. Some scientists think that the large quantities of purple sweet potato in their diet plays a key role in keeping their bodies and brains healthy well into old age. However, to date, there are not many studies into the health benefits of the purple sweet potato, and it’s impossible to say that the Okinawan’s longevity is down to this one food alone.
Beetroot’s deep purple colour comes from plant chemicals called betalains. Like anthocyanins, betalains have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. You can also find betalains in the stems of chard and rhubarb but it’s the flesh and skin of beetroots which are especially rich in them.
Beetroot is also a good source of vitamins and minerals, including folate, iron, manganese and potassium. They’re also nitrate-rich, which contributes to many of beetroot’s perceived health benefits. For example, a study from 2013 found that consuming beetroot juice was linked with lower blood pressure.
Beetroot juice has also been found to moderately improve athletic performance.
Another study has suggested that a diet that includes beetroot juice may increase blood flow to the brain, which some have interpreted to mean it may help prevent or improve dementia. However, as the NHS points out, these findings are limited by the fact that it was based on a very small sample size of 16 elderly people over an extremely short interval. This means that much more evidence is needed before we can conclusively say that beetroot juice aids cognitive function.
Anthocyanin toxicity, to our knowledge, has not been shown in currently published human intervention studies. The risk of toxicity from the food supply is minute given the low bioavailability of anthocyanins. The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives has established an acceptable daily intake of 2.5 mg/kg per day for anthocyanins from grape-skin extracts but not for anthocyanins in general.
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