Want to Protect Your Brain and Heart, Prevent Cancer, and Slow Aging? Eating Your Anthocyanins May Help

by Nils Osmar. December 22, 2022. Medical Disclaimer

Eating dark red, blue and purple fruits and vegetables contain anthocyanins, a type of naturally occurring flavanoid may offer a measure of protection against brain aging – and improve our odds of avoiding heart disease, stroke and cancer; protects our brains (and memories) from the aging process.and protects our urinary tract health.

Which ones are best?

Fruit and vegetables that are colored all through contain higher quantities than ones with a colored skin (but white interior). Eating dark colored fruit or vegetables along with a diet rich in fatty fish or fish oil appears to multiply these benefits. This study found some striking benefits from consuming cherries, concord grapes, and wild blueberries.

From the study:

Consumption of 200 mL/day of cherry juice by adults older than 70 years with mild-to-moderate dementia leads to an improvement in verbal fluency, short-term memory and long-term memory.

Anthocyanin-rich juice promote a decrease in systolic blood pressure. Inflammatory markers (CRP and IL-6) were not altered by this intervention [267]. Concord grape juice [268] and wild blueberry juice [269] consumption has also potential to improve cognitive function in older adults with early memory decline.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 24 weeks with elderly subjects who had mild self-perceived cognitive decline with aging showed that supplementation with fish oil and with blueberry reduces self-reported inefficiencies in everyday functioning [270].

Anthocyanins’ neurocognitive benefit was also confirmed by functional magnetic resonance imaging in a study where blueberry diet supplementation enhanced neural responses during working memory challenges in older adults with cognitive decline [271]. Improvement in attention/working memory performances was also observed in individuals undergoing mild cognitive decline by consuming table grapes twice a day [272].

Moreover, anthocyanins improve brain perfusion and activation in brain areas associated with cognitive function in healthy older adults supplemented with blueberries [273] and with Vitis vinifera fruit extract [274].

Red, blue and purple vegetables include:

  • Dark red cherries
  • Beets
  • Turnips.
  • Water Chestnuts
  • Eggplant
  • Red and purple cabbage
  • Purple potatoes.
  • Purple onions.
  • Parsnips.
  • Purple cauliflower.

Blue and purple fruits include:

  • Plums.
  • Purple grapes.
  • Plums
  • Figs
  • Elderberries
  • Blueberries.
  • Wild blueberries.
  • Blackberries.
  • Currants..
  • Prunes.

Purple cabbage and carrots

Purple carrots and red and purpose cabbage are also excellent sources, and may offer specific protection against cancer. From an article called “When It Comes To Red Cabbage, More Is Better

Emerging evidence suggests that anthocyanins may provide cancer protection, improve brain function and promote heart health.

An earlier ARS study showed that some anthocyanins yield twice the antioxidant power of the same amount of vitamin C in test tubes, though the amount absorbed by the human body was not explored.

Twelve volunteers consumed three different amounts of cooked red cabbage along with a full diet of carefully controlled foods. Each volunteer completed three two-day meal regimens, which included 2/3 cup, 1-1/3 cups, or 2 cups of red cabbage.

The volunteers were capable of absorbing the most anthocyanins when given the largest serving of cooked cabbage.

Blood sugar issues

  • It’s clear from many studies that eating a diet rich in dark red, blue and purple fruit and vegetables has benefits if our goal is healthy longevity.
  • With that said, fruit and berries can be high in fructose. In large quantities, they can raise blood glucose dangerously high and even trigger metabolic syndrome. See study: Excessive fructose intake induces the features of metabolic syndrome in healthy adult men (From the study: “Excessive intake of fructose may have a role in the current epidemics of obesity and diabetes.”)
  • So snacking on big bowls of fruit and berries separate from other meals could be problematic.
  • One way to prevent blood spikes is quantity control. Another is adjusting our food order — i.e., eating protein foods and low carb vegetables before eating “sweets” (including fruit and berries).
  • See study: Food Order Has Significant Impact on Glucose and Insulin Levels

Related Study: Anthocyanins protect the liver

Anthocyanins Delay Ageing-Related Degenerative Changes in the Liver

From the study:

Liver ageing is a significant risk factor for chronic liver diseases. Anthocyanin is a food additive that has previously shown efficacy in increasing longevity.

Here, we tested whether anthocyanins could protect young mice from accelerated ageing of the liver. Kunming mice were injected with D-galactose to accelerate ageing and were given 20 or 40 mg/kg anthocyanins as an intervention.

After eight weeks, whole liver function and structure were evaluated, and the expression levels of genes involved in the DNA damage signalling pathway were assessed by Western blot analysis.

Anthocyanins delayed the reduction of the liver index (p < 0.05), hepatic tissue injury and fibrosis. Anthocyanins also maintained the stability of the redox system (GSH-PX, T-SOD and MDA) in plasma and liver structures (p < 0.001) and reduced the levels of inflammatory factors (IL-1, IL-6 and TNF-α) in the liver (p < 0.05).

Moreover, the expression levels of sensors (ATM and ATR), mediators (H2AX and γ-H2AX) and effectors (Chk1, Chk2, p53 and p-p53) in the DNA damage signalling pathway were all reduced. Anthocyanins could be widely used in the field of health products to slow ageing-related deterioration of liver function and structure by inhibiting DNA damage.

More studies:

What I’m doing

  • Red cabbage is one of my dietary staples. I like adding it to soup and stews. I also like eating raw fermented red cabbage, i.e., sauerkraut.
  • I buy organic wild blueberries from Trader Joe’s (a great source), which are great mixed with some home-made L. Reuteri 6475 yogurt. See article,
  • I’ll sometimes also take powders made from dark cherries, blueberries, blackberries and pomegranate (mixing a teaspoon or two into whey/yogurt smoothies which I drink after my workouts).

Limitations to the research

There’s of course no guarantee that compounds found to slow aging in animal studies, or that have other beneficial effects in human beings, will extend lifespan in humans. (It would take decades of research to prove human life extension.) But, speaking only for myself, it makes sense to me to eat foods high in anthocyanins for their other well-established health benefits.

Not medical advice

This article is not intended as, and should not be taken as, medical advice. I’m not advising that people eat any particular diet or take any particular supplement(s), just reporting on what I’m doing. Supplements, like medications and other interventions, can have side effects; I would encourage people to research both possible benefits and side effects before starting on any supplementation regimen, and consult with a medical professional about any issues which might have a medical component.  See full Medical Disclaimer

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Thanks to the photographer

Image by NoName_13 from Pixabay

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