Anthocyanins are a colorful way to prevent cardiovascular disease


Image: Anthocyanins are a colorful way to prevent cardiovascular disease

It is often said that presentation is everything when it comes to meals, but there’s an even better reason to fill your plate with colorful foods. The pigment that gives foods like berries their rich red and purple hues also doubles as powerful protection against cardiovascular disease.

Studies have shown that this pigment, anthocyanin, not only offers antioxidant effects; it also protects people from chronic diseases. Indeed, one of its most impressive feats is lowering the risk of the cardiovascular conditions that take millions of lives each year, such as stroke, heart attack, and atherosclerosis.

In a systematic review that involved more than 600,000 participants, British researchers looked at the impact that dietary anthocyanins had on cardiovascular events. They discovered that those who had the greatest dietary anthocyanin intake enjoyed a 9 percent reduction in their risk of developing coronary heart disease; when it came to death due to heart disease, their risk was 8 percent lower compared to those who consumed the lowest amount of anthocyanin.

The study, which was published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, is the strongest argument yet for increasing your fruit intake. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion suggests that people eat a minimum of two servings of fruit per day; just 32 percent of Americans reach that goal.

Choose the right fruits

It’s easy to spot fruits that contain anthocyanins because of their red, purple and blue colors. Some of the best sources include strawberries, blackberries, grapes, pomegranates, cherries, blueberries, raspberries and bilberries. They can also be found in red cabbage, eggplant, and purple potatoes. It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to learn that the fruit’s skins contain the most anthocyanins given their rich color, so make sure you also eat the skin – and be sure to choose organic to avoid pesticide exposure. The review’s authors say that just one to two portions of berries per day are enough to get the anthocyanins you need to protect your heart.

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Anthocyanin’s many benefits

The review is supported by several other studies, including one from 2012 that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. That study showed a link between a higher intake of anthocyanin and significantly lower systolic blood pressure, arterial pressure, and pulse wave velocity. It also confirmed an earlier study that showed eight weeks of taking blueberry supplements reduced participants’ systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 6 and 4 percent respectively.

In addition, anthocyanins can help prevent neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. They accomplish this by improving the communication between nerves and boosting blood flow to the brain. Their antioxidant effect also means they can stop brain damage caused by oxidative stress.

If you’re still not sold on the benefits of anthocyanins, consider this: They can fight cancer cells by attacking them and spurring cell death, in addition to activating the enzymes that rid your body of cancer-causing substances.

Studies have also shown that consuming foods rich in anthocyanins can lower your insulin resistance and protect beta cells in the pancreas, which helps normalize blood levels. That means anthocyanin-rich fruits can help inhibit diabetes.

Cardiovascular disease continues to be one of the top causes of death in America, affecting 84 million Americans and causing roughly one out of every three deaths. Those are very frightening statistics, so you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to consume more anthocyanins and take other steps known to reduce your risk, like exercising and eating as healthier diet overall.

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Berries are some of the best anti-cancer foods you’ll ever find


Image: Berries are some of the best anti-cancer foods you’ll ever find

If you’re constantly on the lookout for ways to reduce your cancer risk, welcome to the club. With so many different types of cancer to worry about and so few safe and effective treatments, prevention really is better than cure. Most natural foods possess anti-cancer benefits to some degree, but if you want to get the most benefits, you should head straight for the berry aisle at your grocery store or farmer’s market.

Your first clue that berries possess remarkable properties is their color. Many fruits that are deep purple, red and blue get their shade from anthocyanins. These powerful antioxidants help fight free radicals and curb the oxidative stress and inflammation at the heart of many types of cancers as well as degenerative diseases.

While they boast a lot of useful benefits, like preventing the buildup of plaque in arterial walls that can lead to heart disease, anthocyanins’ crowning achievement is their ability to prompt various types of cancer cells to kill themselves. They also have the power to interfere with tumors’ abilities to resist chemotherapy, helping make this often-ineffective treatment that much more useful.

It’s no surprise, then, that acai berries, with their incredible antioxidant content, have been shown in studies to inhibit cancer. They can be especially useful when fighting colon cancer; a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that acai could suppress the growth and reproduction of colon cancer cells in humans by a remarkable 90 percent.

That doesn’t mean you should seek acai at the expense of other berries, however. Bilberries might not be as glamorous as other superfoods, but they are still worthwhile, especially in those who have breast or intestinal cancer cells as studies have shown they can cause cell death in these cancers. Also known as the European blueberry, they are like smaller versions of the typical blueberry and can be used in any way you would use the more familiar fruit.

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Another more obscure berry, the chokeberry, puts many other fruits to shame. According to a 2012 study in Oncology Reports, the berries were able to cause malignant brain tumor cells to die. That study looked at the combination of these berries and curcumin. While curcumin fared well when it came to inducing cell death, chokeberries were completely lethal to the cancer cells while also inhibiting the expression of genes that help cancer to spread.

Raspberries, meanwhile, offer a double-pronged approach to fighting cancer. In addition to their high anthocyanin content, they also have a high amount of ellagitannins, enabling them to limit colon cancer cells’ invasiveness and spur cell death in prostate, breast, oral and cervical cancer. Ellagic acid attacks cancer from several angles, acting not only as an antioxidant but also helping to slow cancer cell reproduction and deactivate carcinogens.

Berries’ benefits extend beyond their antioxidant abilities

The American Institute for Cancer Research points out that berries are also excellent sources of vitamin C, which has been shown to help protect against esophageal cancer. They also contain a lot of fiber, which can lower your risk of colorectal cancer.

When you consider all these benefits, combined with the fact that berries happen to be delicious, it might be tempting to get as much of them into your system as possible. Eating berries is unlikely to hurt you, unless you happen to be allergic to them. However, it’s important to keep in mind that berries contain astringent tannins, so taking high doses of very concentrated berry extracts could be damaging over time. Use common sense and talk to a naturopath if you’re concerned about striking a healthy balance.

Sources for this article include:

NaturalHealth365.com

AICR.org

Naturalpedia.com

Blueberries May Boost Memory in Mild Cognitive Impairment


Eating blueberries may improve thinking and memory skills in older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), new research suggests.

“There is a very large, basic-science literature ― molecular studies, cellular studies, and animal studies ― that demonstrates cognitive enhancement with blueberries, but there are only just a few human studies to date,” said lead researcher Robert Krikorian, PhD, University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center, in Ohio.

He presented results of two human blueberry studies March 13 at the 251st National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), in San Diego, California.

Memory, Well-being Boost

In one study, 47 adults aged 68 years and older with MCI were randomly allocated to consume a freeze-dried blueberry powder equivalent to a cup of blueberries or a placebo powder once a day for 16 weeks. The researchers carried out pre- and postintervention cognitive tests on all participants and brain imaging in a subset.

“There was improvement in cognitive performance and brain function in those who had the blueberry powder compared with those who took the placebo,” Dr Krikorian reported.

The cognitive tests included a verbal list–learning task, a simple paper-and-pencil line drawing motor task, a visual-spatial memory task that involved nonverbal information, and a semantic access task. In the blueberry group, there was a significant 72% improvement in semantic access and a 13% improvement in visual-spatial memory, Dr Krikorian told Medscape Medical News. “And we had marginal effects for the other tests ― that is, trends that were close to significant but didn’t reach significance.

“In addition, we found that the blueberry-supplemented subjects showed increased activation in certain regions of the left hemisphere of the brain, and that did not occur with placebo-powder subjects,” he said.

The other study included 94 adults aged 62 to 80 years who had complaints concerning subjective memory. They were randomly allocated to receive the blueberry powder, fish oil, fish oil plus the blueberry powder, or placebo for 24 weeks.
“This study was of similar design but involved a larger population of older adults with normal cognitive function, and the supplementation period was 24 weeks as opposed to 16. The findings weren’t as robust in this study,” Dr Krikorian said, perhaps because these patients had less severe cognitive problems when they entered the study.

“The other interesting result was that the blueberry-supplemented participants felt they were performing better in their everyday lives. They had a better sense of well-being and were making fewer memory mistakes and were less inefficient than they had been relative to those that received the placebo powder,” he noted.

The beneficial effects of blueberries could be due to the presence of anthocyanins, flavonoids shown to improve cognition in animals, Dr Krikorian said.

“It’s important to do this work and for other programs as well to replicate what we are finding,” he noted. “And we need to know much more about the mechanisms of action and the proper dose and intervention period. There are a host of questions that have to be answered with human research.”

Interpret With Caution

These findings are “intriguing but should be interpreted with caution,” Keith N. Fargo, PhD, director of scientific programs and outreach, Alzheimer’s Association, noted in an interview with Medscape Medical News.

“I think the thing for people to remember here is that it is a small study, so there may be something here, [or] there may not be something here. Other people have looked at blueberries and found some protective effect, so it’s not outside the realm of possibilities, and if it’s true, it could be exciting,” Dr Fargo said.

“As a population, we are aging, and it’s going to be important for all of us to try to eat as healthy as we can,” he added. “It’s probably not about a single dietary change. It’s probably about making sure you are physically active and keeping your body weight in check and making sure you are eating a reasonable diet. Those things are going to be helpful for your cardiovascular health, and things that are helpful for your cardiovascular health are also helpful for your cognitive function as you age,” he added.

Blueberries May Help Reduce Your Risk Of Alzheimer’s Disease: It’s All About The Anthocyanins


Blueberries deliver the most delicious wallop of vitamin C found on the planet (in my humble opinion). One serving supplies 25 percent of your daily C requirement plus additional heart-healthy fiber and manganese, important to bone health. A super-achiever when it comes to antioxidant strength, this fruit may also lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, and, new research suggests, even Alzheimer’s disease.

blueberries

A team of University of Cincinnati scientists led by Dr. Robert Krikorian says the healthful antioxidants within blueberries provide a real benefit in improving memory and cognitive function in some older adults. Based on their work, they believe adding blueberries to your diet may help you prevent neurocognitive decline.

Blueberries acquire their deep color from anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid that acts as an antioxidant within the fruit, explains the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. Generally, antioxidants help to prevent age-related damage at the cellular level within the plants. While some scientists believe consuming foods rich in antioxidants will help delay aging, not all scientists, including those at the National Institutes of Health, entirely support that theory.

Still, eating a diet rich in fruits and veggies is unquestionably good for your health with many scientists analyzing and testing specific foods to understand whether they might prevent a particular illness. Quite a few studies, Krikorian and his colleagues note, have found blueberries beneficial in preventing dementia.

Silver Tide

One type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. This neurodegenerative disorder develops in a healthy brain, its symptoms appearing slowly and then worsening over time. Eventually, this disease becomes severe enough to interfere with daily tasks and in the end disrupts even the autonomic nervous system, which controls heart rate and breathing. If they live long enough, Alzheimer’s patients die because their breathing stops. Currently 5.3 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, yet as the nation’s population grows older, that number will almost inevitably rise. The Alzheimer’s Association calculates that the number of Americans with this disorder will reach more than seven million by 2025.

How can science slow this trend?

Following up on earlier clinical trials showing blueberries boost cognitive performance, Krikorian and colleagues conducted two new studies. The first involved 47 adults, 68 years old or older and beginning to show signs of mild cognitive impairment — a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. First, the researchers conducted tests and a brain scan for each participant. Then, after forming two groups, one group of participants ate a placebo powder once a day for 16 weeks, while the other consumed a freeze-dried blueberry powder (equivalent to a single cup of berries).

Conducting the same tests and comparing the groups, Krikorian and his colleagues observed comparative improvement in cognitive performance and brain function among the adults who ate blueberry powder.

“The blueberry group demonstrated improved memory and improved access to words and concepts,” said Krikorian in a statement to the press. Additionally, a second scan showed increased activity in the brains of those in the blueberry group.

The team’s second study included 94 people between the ages of 62 and 80, all confessing to some memory problems. The researchers believed these participants to be in better cognitive “shape” than the first group, however no objective measurements verified this. For this study, the researchers divided the participants into four groups. Each group received either blueberry powder, fish oil, fish oil and powder, or placebo.

A hoped-for replication of the first study did not occur. Cognition proved somewhat better for those taking either blueberry powder or fish oil separately, yet memory barely improved, certainly not as much as in the first study, Krikorian noted. Even the scans showed similar lukewarm results. The team believes participants’ less severe cognitive impairments contributed to this weakened effect.

Blueberries may not show measurable benefit for those with minor memory issues or who have not yet developed cognitive problems, the combined results of the two studies suggest. Perhaps blueberries effectively treat only those patients who already show signs of mental impairment.

Nevertheless, Krikorian says, the very same ingredient that bestows color may provide blueberries with their brain benefits; in past animal studies, scientists have shown anthocyanins improve cognition.

Blueberries May Help Combat PTSD .


Blueberries are not only scrumptious – they may be able to protect us from cardiovascular disease, cancer, memory loss, and maybe even PTSD in the future.

Picture of blueberries

Bears go bats over blueberries. In blueberry season, bears will travel miles just to get their paws – well, lips – on a ripe and scrumptious blueberry patch. And an increasing amount of scientific evidence indicates that we should all be as pro-blueberry as the bears.

Blueberries these days are touted as a superfood – an unofficial term that refers to low-calorie edibles with greater-than-average (even super) nutritional and health benefits. Among these – along with the yummy blueberries – are broccoli, kale, kiwi fruit, pomegranates, beans, salmon, and sardines.

The notable health value of blueberries derives in part from their lush content of antioxidant flavonoids – compounds that not only make blueberries blue, but also act to mop up free radicals.

Picture of blueberry fields

Free radicals are highly reactive molecules with the potential to damage cell integrity and mess with our all-important DNA. These are products of normal body metabolism – each of our body’s cells generates about 20 billion every day – and we also pick up a good many from pollutants and radiation in the environment. Free radicals, as destructive as molecule-gobbling Pac Men, have been implicated in everything from cardiac disease to cancer, memory loss, autoimmune disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Our bodies do their best to beat these off – we have a couple of enzymes tailor-made to combat and eliminate free radicals – but with age and environmental exposure, they can begin to overwhelm us. We can help protect ourselves with antioxidant-enriched foods – and when it comes to antioxidants, blueberries are at the top of the food heap. According to the U.S.Department of Agriculture, blueberries, antioxidant-wise, out-rank everything but red beans – and red beans aren’t ahead by much.

The latest in the array of blueberry bennies is their possible potential to combat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). About 8 percent of the American population suffers from PTSD at some point in their lives, due to emotional or physical trauma, and – at an estimate – PTSD afflicts up to 20 percent of veterans. Current, but not particularly effective, treatments for PTSD are drugs known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors or SSRIs – that is, medications that boost levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood disorders.

Illustration of a blueberry sprig

Some recent research, however, indicates that blueberries may be a helpful alternative, at least in rats. Experiments conducted by Philip Ebenezer and colleagues at Louisiana State University involved rats which developed PTSD after being (deliberately) terrified by cats. The researchers found that rats who were fed blueberries following their traumatizing experience had markedly higher serotonin levels than rats fed a blueberry-less control diet, suggesting a better recovery. If blueberries have similar effects on neurotransmitter levels in human beings, they may help alleviate the problems of the severely traumatized.

Other health benefits of blueberries have been in the news for a while. A cup of blueberries a day, according to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Other studies indicate that blueberries decrease the risk of prostate cancer, combat urinary tract infections, reduce age-related memory loss, and promote brain healthVarious experiments have shown that blueberries boost brain power, variously upping memory, learning, and cognitive functions – among these reasoning skills, decision making, verbal comprehension, and numerical ability. To be fair, there are other foods that are also excellent sources of brain-bolstering flavonoids – among them wine, tea, dark chocolate, and tofu. But blueberries are also great sources of vitamin C – and, since a cup of blueberries adds up to a mere 80 calories, they’re not about to make you fat.

What to make of all of this? Scientists tell us not to go overboard. Popular claims for superfoods can be exaggerated; and chances are that blueberries aren’t a universal panacea.

But a cup a day sure can’t hurt.