What are anthocyanins? Anthocyanins (ACNs) are the pigments found in fruit and vegetables and they are now being linked to improvements in chronic disease. You may know them better as polyphenols, there’s more than 8000 of these that we know of. ACNs are believed to be beneficial to your health as they have antioxidant properties and can help with inflammation. We don’t know exactly how they work though. You already know your gut is a very complex machine so understanding how one natural pigment works in this complex system takes a lot of work and many laboratory hours to find. Plants have a significant amount of ACNs and 6 major bioactive types include cyanidin, peonidin, pelargonidin, malvidin, delphinidin, and petunidin. These are all found in fruit and vegetables. So, where’s the proof that they are so good for us?
One study looking at the ACNs in blackcurrants found that the extract from blackcurrants was able to reduce inflammation in mice. Other studies have shown associations with between a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes with the increase of ACNs in the diet. The stroke study believed that the ACN intake may protect vascular health, either directly or indirectly, which may limit damage to the brain after a stroke.
A number of studies have looked at the effects of purified ACN on blood pressure and found that there was a significant decrease in blood pressure related to berry consumption. These studies may have just found people who feel calm and relaxed when they eat berries but as they were all a little different in the way the studies were conducted, we’ll never know 😊.
A recent gut study looked at the consumption of purple sweet potato polyphenols and changes to the gut microbiota. What they observed was an interaction between the polyphenol and the fibre (inulin and cellulose) on the microbiota composition (an increase in Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus) and a lowered pH. There was also a decrease in something called p-cresol which is often found in diets of high protein when.
This is just one more reason to include variety in your diet. Eat as many colourful vegetables and fruit that you can (but no more 2 pieces of fruit/day) as they may help reduce your inflammation and keep your gut bugs happy. Having more fibre in your day is the best way to get your health on track and keep your gut happy. Building up to 30g/day is ideal but take it slowly if you don’t eat much fibre now. About 2-3g each day or two is a good start but it depends on your gut and how long it’s been without a decent amount of fibre.
Blesso, C. N. (2019). Dietary Anthocyanins and Human Health. Nutrients, 11(9), 2107. doi:10.3390/nu11092107