Exciting new research is showing that consumption of dietary anthocyanins found in berry fruits, is associated with lower blood pressures and vascular stiffness. In a recent study done in American journal of Clinical nutrition, an association between intake of dietary anthocyanin and measurements in blood pressure and arterial stiffness were evaluated in healthy female twins with a mean age of 46. The results showed that higher intake of anthocyanins found in berry fruits was associated with lower peripheral, central systolic and mean arterial pressure as well as lower pulse wave velocity, which is an indicator for arterial stiffness
Anthocyanins, are a member of the flavonoid group, which are found commonly in teas, honey, wines, fruits and vegetables, nuts, cocoa and olive oil. Among the anthocyanins, the colorful ones are the most commonly recognized and visible. In flowers, the anthocyanins give bright red and purple color, which attracts pollination. In fruits, anthocyanins impart colorful skins that attract the attention of animals, which eat the fruit and disperse the seeds. In leaves and stems, anthocyanins act as sunscreen by absorbing blue green and ultraviolet light which protects the tissues from high light stress.
In humans, bilberry anthocyanins have been used in folk medicine for the treatment of diarrhea, microbial infections, and vision disorders. The free radical scavenging and antioxidant properties are the most studied benefits of the anthocyanins and play a strong role in cardiovascular disease prevention. The dysfunctions of the cells that surround the blood vessel (endothelial cells) are responsible for initiation and development of the vascular disease. A study that combined four anthocyanins from elderberries showed that the anthocyanins can be incorporated directly into the endothelial cells and can also provide oxidative stress protection. Another study showed that, administration of grape juice or wine provided significant protection against heart attack. This was due to the anthocyanin content contained in these beverages which reduced inflammation, increased the capillary strength and permeability, inhibited the formation of platelet clots and enhanced nitric oxide release. Several studies have also shown that consumption of berry fruits during meals decreases the postprandial oxidative stress, especially lipid peroxidation, which is associated with coronary artery disease.
The anthocyanin content of the different berry fruits varies. For example some of the fruits that contain the highest amount of anthocyanin are chokeberries also known as Aronia berries (437mg) and Blueberries (163mg). Additionally, the berry fruits are also known for their antioxidant property, which is measured by oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC). For example 100g of chokeberries contains 16,062 TE which makes it one of the highest antioxidant containing berry.
As consumers, when using berry foods, we have to remember that conventionally grown berry fruits can be highly contaminated with organophosphate insecticides. A way to get around this problem is organic cultivation of these berry fruits. Additionally, the concentration of the anthocyanin varies with different cultivated berries. The concentration of anthocyanin increases with the ripening process and with an increase in fruit color. In addition to providing cardiovascular benefits, anthocyanins have also been shown to increase visual acuity, inhibit tumor cell proliferation, decrease age related decline in neural function and enhance memory.