About Anthocyanins

The Power of Purple


There aren’t many people who have heard of anthocyanins, but dieticians and nutritionists have, because these colorful compounds are abundant in many of the fruits and vegetables we eat.   As the term “cyan” suggests, we’re talking here about colors mostly in the blue and purple bands of the rainbow, the kind you see in black currants and blueberries, grapes, plums, purple cabbage and blue corn, and much else.  Without these pigments not only fruits and vegetables, but flowers and foliage would lack essential protection from the damaging effects of sunlight.

But anthocyanins aren’t just a source protective color in violets and autumn leaves.  In countless tests, anthocyanins have been proven to be effective anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatories, and even antitumor and anti-neurodegenerative agents.¹ This is one of the reasons fruits and vegetables rich in anthocyanins are so highly recommended by dieticians, and often cited as lacking in our daily diets. 

But there is a problem with the proof mentioned above.  The tests performed on anthocyanins have necessarily occurred in vitro, that is to say, in glass, i.e. test tubes, lab beakers and petri dishes.  Meanwhile, we still do not know how these secondary metabolites are processed in the digestive system, transported into the bloodstream, and absorbed into the cells of the human body.  Scientists who have proven the effectiveness of these compounds in fighting cancer in test tubes will tell you that this is not the same as explaining how they work in the human body.

At this level, it turns out that much nutritional science is still theory and guesswork.  While many naysayers insist that anthocyanins, and similar micronutrients, are destroyed in the acidic juices of the digestive system, there are researchers who insist that there must be ways that compounds like anthocyanins enter the body, where they are not just beneficial, but essential to our health.   



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