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Anthocyanins are a group of abundant and widely consumed flavonoid constituents that occur ubiquitously in the plant kingdom, providing the bright red-orange to blue-violet colors present in many fruit- and vegetable-based food products. Their intake has been estimated to be up to 9-fold higher than that of other dietary flavonoids. Anthocyanins have become increasingly important to the food industry as their use as natural alternatives to artificial colors has become widespread and knowledge of their health-promoting properties has become more evident. Epidemiological studies suggest that increased consumption of anthocyanins lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), the most common cause of mortality among men and women. Anthocyanins frequently interact with other phytochemicals, exhibiting synergistic biological effects but making contributions from individual components difficult to decipher. Over the past 2 decades, many peer-reviewed publications have demonstrated that in addition to their noted in vitro antioxidant activity, anthocyanins may regulate different signaling pathways involved in the development of CVD. This review summarizes the latest developments on the bioavailability/bioactivity and CVD preventative activities of anthocyanins, including results from in vitro cell culture and in vivo animal model systems as related to their multiple proposed mechanisms of action. Limited yet promising data from epidemiological studies and human clinical trials are also presented. Future studies aimed at enhancing the absorption of anthocyanins and characterizing their metabolic and/or breakdown products are necessary to ultimately evaluate their use for protection/prevention against the development of CVD.
PMID: 22211184 [PubMed - in process]