The Health Benefits of Anthocyanins
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 berries, red onions, kidney beans, pomegranates, and grapes 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.
The Science Behind 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.
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.
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.
Sources of Anthocyanins
Natural substances rich in anthocyanins include:
Using Anthocyanins for Health Purposes
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.
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