Anthocyanins in Colored Fruits & Vegetables

If you follow what we do at GnuPharma, you know that we are deep into ways to modulate the endocannabinoid system (ECS) with non-cannabis plants. We started discussing these concepts about four years ago and are probably the first to coin the term “master regulatory system.” We are always learning new things, and we usually at least hint at these new things in articles and blogs.

Several years ago, it looked like cannabis, and a small set of a few other plants were about the only way to modulate the endocannabinoid system for health effects. Cannabis appears to have all the necessary “knobs and levers” to provide our bodies with the resources to regulate appropriately. But if just cannabis and a few plants can give these NECESSARY resources to our endocannabinoid system, how have we survived as a species? In fact, how has everything on earth, except insects, survived? If the NECESSARY resources to run our master regulatory are only available from a few plants, we would only live in the places where those plants grew. Simple survival and simple logic: all life but insects would also be living ONLY in the regions where these plants grow natively.

Anthocyanins: An Alternative

We know that life is abundant and has developed everywhere on the planet. You can find non-insect life in every nook and cranny on this planet. This indicates that the natural resources we need to “regulate our vehicles” would have to be found, in abundance, throughout nature. If this were not the case, life would be isolated to the regions where those resources were readily available.

It is now looking like the “why” of a plant’s ability to affect humans (or other non-insect animals) is because of the action of the molecules in the plant to cause actions and changes within the endocannabinoid system or a subsystem that is regulated by the endocannabinoid system. For instance, beta-caryophyllene is found in many herbs and spices and is an effector of the endocannabinoid system. Likewise, Curcumin from turmeric is medicinal due to its action in the endocannabinoid system.

Related: B-Caryophyllene’s Influence on the ECS

An Introduction to the Benefits and Risks of Anthocyanins

Anthocyanins are a pigment found in plants that are believed to offer health benefits. They are part of the class of compounds that you might already be familiar with: flavonoids, which have antioxidant effects. These compounds fight unstable molecules (free radicals) that increase the risk of some diseases and damage cells.

Some researchers are beginning to find that anthocyanins may also help fight inflammation, viral infections, cancer, heart disease, and boost the immune system.

Where to Find Anthocyanins

Anthocyanins are water-soluble pigments that protect plants against extreme temperatures and give them their color. Fruits and vegetables that are especially rich in anthocyanins include:

  • Açai berries
  • Blackberries 
  • Black beans
  • Black rice  
  • Black raspberries 
  • Black soybean
  • Blueberries
  • Blue corn
  • Cranberries
  • Concord grapes
  • Eggplant
  • Pomegranate
  • Plums
  • Red currants
  • Red cabbage
  • Red onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Tart cherries

Health Benefits of Anthocyanins

In herbal medicine, foods rich in anthocyanins are often used to treat or help prevent a number of health conditions, including:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Colds, flu, and viral infections
  • Eye diseases like glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy
  • Enlarged prostates
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Strokes 
  • UTIs

In addition, others believe that anthocyanins can help prevent numerous types of cancer.

From the research we’ve seen, it’s clear that foods rich in anthocyanins can play a significant role in nutrition; however, it’s still unclear whether or not they can treat or prevent various health conditions. Even in the areas where there is some evidence showing that anthocyanins are beneficial, like reducing the risk of heart disease, it’s still lacking a solid definition of how much is needed to be considered a preventative.

Let’s look at what the most current studies have to say:

Heart Disease

Some research shows that anthocyanins can help reduce the risk of heart disease, per a 2010 study published in Nutrition Reviews. According to the report, anthocyanins appear to reduce blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol that can contribute to heart disease. They may also fight oxidative stress, which can play a role in heart disease, too. In addition, another study found that foods rich in anthocyanins can also help prevent high blood pressure, a significant risk factor for heart disease.

In addition, a 12-week study where people who drank 6.6 ounces of anthocyanin-rich juice saw a significant drop in blood pressure. In another study, participants drank 10 ounces daily and saw a drop in blood pressure that lasted for approximately six hours after drinking the anthocyanin-rich juice.

Breast Cancer

According to another study, anthocyanins might help prevent breast cancer. In a series of experiments, researchers found that anthocyanins they extracted from blueberries could help stop breast cancer cells from growing. However, despite these findings, there is still no evidence that eating foods rich in anthocyanins (or taking anthocyanins supplements) can do the same — we still need to see more research.

Inflammation

One study of people with high cholesterol saw significantly reduced markers of inflammation when taking 320 mg of anthocyanins twice daily. In addition, another study suggests that anthocyanins can help reduce pain and inflammation and people with inflammatory arthritis.

Diabetes

Anthocyanins may also help protect against type two diabetes. As one review suggests, people who regularly eat foods rich in the compound have a 15% lower risk of contracting this condition. As little as 7.5 mg daily can offer this reduced risk — that means 1 to 2 ounces of fruits or vegetables high in anthocyanins are enough to significantly reduce the risk of type two diabetes.

A handful of berries rich in anthocyanins

Risks and Considerations of Anthocyanins

Including fruits and vegetables rich in anthocyanins in your diet may help boost your health by delivering good nutrition. These foods, like berries, are great for almost any diet because they are also rich in fiber, vitamins, and essential minerals.

However, with that said, researchers have yet to determine whether or not taking high concentrations of anthocyanins as a supplement can help prevent or treat any health condition. And if you do decide to take anthocyanin supplements, you should understand that they are not regulated in the US. So the quality may vary widely and the supplements made include ingredients that you don’t want.

To ensure purity and quality, you want to look for anthocyanin products certified by USP, NSF International, or ConsumerLabs. While those certifications don’t mean the product is effective or safe, they do ensure that the supplements contain the listed ingredients in the advertised amounts.

Anthocyanins and Their Effect on the Endocannabinoid System

The ECS is an important system in our body, allowing us to benefit from various compounds, including anthocyanins. Emerging research has recently found the link between anthocyanins and the endocannabinoid system. And the two appear to have a special relationship — let’s look at why.

Related: Sleep and the ECS

Upon examination of anthocyanin compounds and their affinity for cannabinoid receptors, we can see that they contribute to homeostasis in our body using cannabinoid receptors. This study explains how the ECS plays a primary role in various processes throughout the brain and how the CB1 and CB2 receptors work.

If the health benefits from various fruits are a result of these anthocyanin compounds binding to those receptors in the endocannabinoid system, why aren’t we eating more of them? It’s likely because of our large emphasis on processed foods and lack of emphasis on nutrient-dense foods. So could eating more nutrient-rich foods, like those full of anthocyanins, help reduce the risk of chronic diseases?

Some research on anthocyanin found that eating foods high in the compound significantly reduced cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein. Participants also saw an increase in plasma antioxidant capacity. The foods in this class, especially fruits, were found to bind to cannabinoid receptors, reducing fasting plasma glucose. Participants saw improved insulin resistance compared to those who received a placebo.

Related: Proteins, Lipids, and Other Chaos

However, even though we now know that anthocyanins bind to the endocannabinoid receptors, researchers agree that we still need further investigation into the compounds to fully understand how they can affect various health conditions.

The Science Behind Anthocyanins and the ECS

The study below and quote from the summary of the study are mind-blowing when you consider their ramifications: “Taking the multiple pharmacological properties altogether, anthocyanins appear as polypharmacological agents for diseases involving dysregulation of ECS (endocannabinoid system) and PPARs.” Translation=Anthocyanins (from blueberries or any colored fruit) have the necessary molecules to modulate the CB1 neuro and the CB2 neuro. They can block both neurons, allowing ALL of the necessary resources to fully modulate the endocannabinoid system and thereby “regulate” the “dysregulation.”

Anthocyanins are water-soluble polyphenol compounds abundantly found in colored fruits and vegetables, particularly red and blue fruits like blueberry, cranberry, and red cabbage. These have been shown to regulate several intracellular functions. Numerous studies have shown that anthocyanins and anthocyanidins exhibit antioxidant and redox-inflammatory signaling, contributing to their analgesic, cardioprotective, neuroprotective, anticancer, atherogenic, antihyperlipidemic, and antihypertensive effects. The cannabinoid receptor activity has been demonstrated by competitive radioligand assays of cyanidin (K i = 16.2 μM) and delphinidin (K i = 21.3 μM) for hCB1 receptors whereas similar affinities for CB2 receptors have been shown by cyanidin (K i = 33.5 μM), delphinidin (K i = 34.3 μM), and peonidin (K i = 46.4 μM) [source]. 

However, the cyanidin derivatives such as cyanidin-3,5-di-O-glucoside, cyanidin-3-O-glucoside, cyanidin-3-O-galactoside, cyanidin-3-O-rutinoside, malvidin, and pelargonidin showed inhibition of both CB1 and CB2 receptors. Additionally, cyanidin-3-O-β-glucoside is also reported to activate all forms of PPARs and reduce hepatic lipids by altering the expression of genes involved in lipid metabolic pathways. Taking altogether the multiple pharmacological properties, anthocyanins appear as polypharmacological agents for diseases involving dysregulation of ECS and PPARs [source].

Are Anthocyanins, Fruits, and Vegetables the Answer?

Various fruits & vegetables rich in anthocyanins

Colored fruits can contain all the necessary natural resources to run your endocannabinoid system. What we have found at GnuPharma, is that when these natural resources are presented, your body does what it should and uses these resources to re-regulate the dis-regulations. We are just beginning to understand this fascinating and almost magical phenomenon and realize that we can also “target” certain areas of the body by using herbs that also target these areas with proper resources. So we work very logically and simply at the macro.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”…old Hippocrates knew a thing or two…wonder if he knew about the endocannabinoid system?

Looking to get your health back on track? Learn how our Care Plan at GnuPharma can help you identify endocannabinoid system imbalances and ways to improve them.