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.

An ancient pear endemic to Italy is a little-known superfood with high concentrations of antioxidant compounds


Image: An ancient pear endemic to Italy is a little-known superfood with high concentrations of antioxidant compounds

The Apennine mountains of central Italy are home to an ancient and rare variant of the European pear (Pyrus communis) called the Cocomerina pear. A study conducted by local researchers revealed that this pink-fleshed pear is a superfood bursting with natural antioxidants.

“Cocomerina” is derived from “cocomero,” the term for watermelon. This variant of pear is called that because of its sweet-smelling and pink flesh, which grows more vivid in color as the fruit ripens.

It is one of the so-called “ancient fruits,” which are very old and only found in a few small areas. The Cocomerina variant of the European pear is restricted to the Apennine area of Romagna and Tuscany. The early-ripening cultivar is harvested in August, while the late-ripening one is collected in October.

Many pears contain large amounts of anthocyanins, flavonoids, and polyphenols.  These plant-based compounds have powerful antioxidant properties that protect cell tissue and membranes from free radicals. (Related: The strange-looking tropical fruit graviola is a POWERFUL superfood against cancer.)

Methodology

Researchers from the Universita di Urbino – Carlo Bo (UdU Carlo Bo) studied the nutritional value of the Cocomerina pear. They harvested ripe specimens of the early-ripening cultivar, as well as both ripe and unripe examples of the late-ripening cultivar.

The cores were removed from the sample fruits before they were chopped up and prepared into fruit extracts. Each extract was analyzed to determine the amount and types of anthocyanins, flavones, flavonoids, flavonols, and polyphenols that it contained.

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Armed with the knowledge of the bioactive plant compounds present in the fruits, the researchers tested the extracts for their antioxidant activity. They measured the effectiveness of each extract when it came to scavenging DPPH free radicals, as well as its capacity to absorb oxygen radicals.

Furthermore, they evaluated the ability of the extracts to prevent inflammation. In the 5’-lipoxygenase assay, they measured the amount of extract required to inhibit 50 percent of the inflammatory activity of lipoxygenase.

Phytochemical content of Cocomerina pear extract

To begin with, the UdU Carlo Bo researchers noted the different amounts of phytochemicals found in the cultivars of the Cocomerina pear. The late-ripening cultivar has higher levels of polyphenolic compounds. Likewise, its ripe fruits contain more polyphenols than unripe samples.

The unripe fruits of the late-ripening cultivar have the best number of flavonoids. Interestingly, the ripe fruits of both ER and LR strains contain similar levels of flavonoids.

When it came to flavones and flavonols, the ripe fruit of the early-ripening cultivar demonstrated the highest level. Dihydroflavonol levels were much higher in the late cultivar, however.

Comparison of the unripe and ripe fruits of the late-ripening cultivar showed that the levels increased alongside the maturity of the fruit. So ripe fruits of the Cocomerina pear contains more phytochemicals than unripe fruits.

The amount of anthocyanin in late-ripening cultivar is 126 times greater than in the early-ripening one. Ripe LR cultivars contain more anthocyanins than unripe ones.

Free radical scavenging and antioxidant activity

All three extracts were able to scavenge DPPH free radicals. The ethanolic extracts made from the unripe and ripe pears of the late-ripening cultivar were much more effective.

Next, the extracts were also effective at inhibiting the activity of the inflammatory enzyme 5’-lipoxygenase. Again, the late-ripening cultivar’s extracts displayed greater effectiveness.

The antioxidant activity was greatest in the ripe fruits of the late-ripening cultivar. When compared with commercial pear cultivars, the Cocomerina pear extracts showed comparable or superior activity.

The researchers concluded that the Cocomerina pear possesses significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. These health benefits could encourage the conservation and recovery of this ancient fruit.

For more stories about cocomerina pear and other fruits that serve as superfoods, check out Fruits.news.

Sources include:

Science.news

Academic.OUP.com

TAndFOnline.com

Pubs.ACS.org