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What Do Anthocyanins Do to the Brain and Body?

If you read articles about promoting health and well-being through diet, you're sure to encounter quite a few articles about eating more antioxidant foods - particularly those containing anthocyanins. Unfortunately, even great online resources often fail to fully explain just what an anthocyanin is and how exactly to introduce more of the nutrients into your diet. In this post, we'll demystify the subject, giving you a complete introduction to the anthocyanin benefits, anthocyanin-rich foods, and anthocyanin supplements.

What Is an Anthocyanin?

Before we get into a complete anthocyanin definition, it's important that you understand some key terms. Let's explore the words you need to know, one at a time. 

What Are Antioxidants?

An antioxidant is a substance that plays a defensive role in the body. Your body naturally produces some antioxidants, others you get from antioxidant-rich foods. 

Both types of antioxidants help fight the effects of free radicals, highly reactive particles in ultraviolet energy and pollution that bombard our bodies daily. Left unchecked, free radicals can damage cells, driving the aging process and contributing to inflammation and a host of medical conditions. Antioxidants work by breaking free radicals down into harmless substances within the body. 

What Are Polyphenols?

Polyphenols are a class of substances that occur naturally in plants. Scientists have discovered more than 8,000 of them, and the vast majority of them provide antioxidant benefits. When people speak about foods that are high in antioxidants, they're usually referring to foods featuring polyphenols as well as vitamins that have antioxidant potential such as vitamins A, C and E. 

What Is a Flavonoid?

Polyphenols are a broad category of substances that can be broken down into smaller sub-categories. One of these subgroups is the flavonoid family. There are more than 5,000 flavonoids, and they also provide antioxidant benefits. They are found throughout the fruits, flowers, leaves and stems of plants, which need them to draw in pollinators and for protection from environmental stress. 

Finally - What Are Anthocyanins?

Now, we've reached the topic at hand - the anthocyanin. Anthocyanins are one of the 12 types of antioxidant flavonoids. In plants, these substances serve as pigments, creating red, purple, and blue colors. There are six primary anthocyanins: 

  • Cyanidin

  • Malvidin

  • Delphinidin

  • Petunidin

  • Peonidin

  • Pelargonidin

Anthocyanin Benefits

The benefits of anthocyanins are owed mainly to their antioxidant potential. Since they fight the effects of free radicals, they can help the body and the mind in several ways. Keep reading to explore some of the potential anthocyanin health benefits.

What Do Anthocyanins Do for the Body?

A diet that’s rich in anthocyanin foods may be helpful for the body in the following ways: 

Decreases Inflammation

Although scientists don't fully understand how, anthocyanins have been demonstrated to reduce inflammation. As a result, anthocyanins are potentially beneficial for people who suffer from chronic inflammation due to conditions such as arthritis. 

Reduces Cancer Risks

There is some evidence to suggest that anthocyanins may help to disrupt the changes in DNA that cause cells to replicate too quickly and give rise to cancer. In addition, studies indicate that the antioxidants may slow the growth of cancer cells, destroy cancerous cells, and lower the likelihood of tumors becoming cancerous. Although more research is necessary to assess the effectiveness of anthocyanin-rich foods and supplements for cancer prevention, the early findings are very promising. 

Protects Against Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body’s cells don't respond properly to insulin, causing blood sugar levels to rise. Early studies suggest that anthocyanins help protect vital cells from inflammation and oxidative damage, to boost insulin secretion, and help the body respond properly to the hormone. These findings lead some experts to believe that anthocyanin-rich foods may minimize the risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Strengthens Heart Health

Heart disease is a complex condition that often arises due to various reasons, and there is growing evidence that anthocyanins may help mitigate a variety of heart disease risk factors. First, a review of 66 studies found that anthocyanins likely help control blood pressure levels, protecting arteries from the damaging effects of hypertension. As previously mentioned, anthocyanins may also limit inflammation that contributes to heart disease. Plus, polyphenols have been shown to help fight the formation of cholesterol deposits that clog arteries and reduce blood flow to the heart. 

Additional Benefits

Scientists also believe that anthocyanins may provide other benefits, including: 

  • Supporting weight loss by assisting with the metabolism of stored body fat

  • Protecting skin from the damaging effects of UV rays

  • Fighting certain types of bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus

Anthocyanins and Brain Health

In addition to potentially being able to defend the body from numerous conditions, anthocyanins may help support brain health in a few ways. The following are some anthocyanin brain benefits currently under investigation. 

Improves Memory

One study found that anthocyanins may help improve memory. Scientists speculate that polyphenols may enhance blood flow to the parts of the brain that are responsible for creating new memories and recalling information. 

Sharpens Attention

In the same study as the information mentioned above, researchers found that anthocyanins may sharpen focus and increase attention spans. The anti-inflammatory properties of anthocyanins likely play a role in providing this potential benefit. 

Enhances Processing Speed

Similar to a computer, the brain must process large amounts of information when you're performing complex tasks. There is evidence to suggest that anthocyanins may help to support brain activities, making it possible for people to analyze data and arrive at conclusions or make decisions more quickly and efficiently. 

Implications for Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia

Although researchers are still working to understand what causes Alzheimer's disease and dementia, it's generally accepted that inflammation and reduced blood flow to the brain play a role. Consequently, scientists are currently exploring whether anthocyanins may be beneficial for preventing these neurodegenerative conditions or lessening their symptoms. 

Early results of studies have been promising. One study saw improvements in memory and speech in people over the age of 70 with mild to moderate dementia. Another study that was conducted in China concluded that anthocyanins are a promising complementary treatment for neurodegenerative disorders

Foods High in Anthocyanins

One way to boost your intake of anthocyanins is through diet. While eating antioxidant-rich foods is generally beneficial, prioritizing plants with anthocyanins can treat your body to the benefits of these promising polyphenols. Some foods with the highest anthocyanins include: 

  • Aronia berries

  • Black beans

  • Blackberries

  • Black carrots

  • Black chokeberries

  • Black currants

  • Black elderberries

  • Black grapes

  • Blueberries

  • Eggplant

  • Lingonberries

  • Mulberries

  • Plums

  • Pomegranate

  • Purple corn

  • Purple cauliflower.

  • Red cabbage

  • Red currants

  • Red raspberries

  • Red wine

  • Sour cherries

  • Strawberries

  • Sweet cherries

How you enjoy the foods listed above will impact how much of the benefits of the anthocyanins in plants you receive. Experts recommend consuming these foods raw when they are at full ripeness, as some of the food antioxidants may be lost due to cooking, freezing, or drying. Because there are six types of anthocyanins and the content varies from plant to plant, strive to eat a variety of the foods listed above on a regular basis. 

Anthocyanin Supplement Options

For those who struggle to eat enough foods that are rich in antioxidants, supplements can provide a good solution, but it's important to note that not all supplements are the same. When comparing options, look for products derived from real foods rather than those that contain man-made equivalents of anthocyanins, as the latter may be more difficult for your body to use properly. 

Body Kitchen Total Brain is an excellent source of anthocyanins for you to consider. It contains Brainberry, an optimized extract from natural Aronia berries that delivers a high concentration of anthocyanins. In one clinical trial, Brainberry was shown to boost hand-eye coordination within just six weeks. 

The benefits of Brainberry are complemented by CognatiQ, derived from Coffea arabica coffee cherries that have been shown to boost brain activity linked to learning and overall brain health by as much as 143%. Rounding out the key ingredients is Synapsa, a clinically researched patented form of the Ayurvedic herb Bacopa monnieri that was found to be four times more effective at enhancing working memory than a placebo. 

Body Kitchen Total Brain is simple to add to your daily diet as well. Just two capsules per day are all that is necessary to support memory, information processing, focus, concentration, creativity, and productivity.