Part 6 in this series on antioxidants showed that the Green phytonutrients convey a host of benefits beyond being fantastic antioxidants, including protecting you against many types of cancer and improving eye health. It turns out that the blue and purple phytonutrients can also significantly reduce your risk of cancer while helping provide a broad array of benefits for memory, heart disease and diabetes.
Anthocyanins are a group of water-soluble pigments that can appear red, purple or blue. We mentioned some of the benefits of the red anthycanins in our post on Red Phytonutrients; blue and purple anthocyanins have also been shown to exhibit numerous health effects. Foods that are high in these anthocyanins are easy to spot, and include blueberries, blackberries, purple grapes, black currants and elderberries.
Cancer Prevention and Protection
Anthocyanins have exhibited anti-proliferative activity towards multiple cancer cell types, including esophageal, colon, skin and lung cancer. Research indicates that anthocyanins can inhibit cell proliferation at many stages of cancer cell growth. They have also been shown to induce apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in multiple cancer cell lines. The process of apoptosis plays a key role in the development and growth regulation of normal cells; this process is often dysregulated in cancer cells. Anthocyanins are some of the most effective chemopreventative agents because they are strong inducers of apoptosis in premalignant and malignant cancer cells.
Oncemore, anthocyanins have been shown to reduce the ability of cancer cells to form new blood vessels, effectively starving them of nutrients. This process – called angiogenesis – is important in tumor growth and metastisis; by blocking this process in a multitude of ways, anthyocyanins provide yet another way to protect yourself from cancer.
Anthocyanins have also been shown to help protect against cardiovascular disease via a number of mechanisms, including lowering arterial stiffness, lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of diabetes complications and reducing the risk of heart attacks.
One of the things most people fear as they age is memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease. Research has shown that anthocyanins can improve cognition and may be beneficial for the prevention and treatment of dementia. Benefits found include improvements in both short- and long-term memory and verbal skills.
Antioxidants are Vital to Health and Well-Being
We hope that after reading these series of posts on antioxidants and phytonutrients, you can plainly see that these nutrients are vital to restoring and optimizing health. These nutrients provide us with a barrier to combat the constant barrage of insults we are inflicted with daily – including pollution, stress, microbes, heavy metals, illness, improper diets, etc. – the list goes on and on. Thus, it is imperative that we eat foods that contains these vital nutrients on a daily basis. Luckily, the things that make our foods so colorful also help them taste good, so finding ways to get them in daily should be too much of a problem.
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- National Cancer Institute, www.5aday.gov
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- Kent K, Charlton K, Roodenrys S, et al. Consumption of anthocyanin-rich cherry juice for 12 weeks improves memory and cognition in older adults with mild-to-moderate dementia. Eur J Nutr. 2017 Feb;56(1):333-341.