A-Z Nutrition: Anthocyanins

This is the first in a series of posts on various nutrients, compounds and nutrition related terminology from A-Z. Each post contains references for the supporting science. Please keep in mind that these posts are purely informational and do not contain specific nutrition related recommendations.


What are Anthocyanins?

Anthocyanins are a group of compounds that are found in numerous plant based foods. They have been seen to have antioxidant properties and have even been linked to decreasing the risk of certain chronic diseases, however much more research is needed to understand their exact role (1).

Anthocyanins are found in fruits and vegetables with red-orange color and blue-violet color including cherries, eggplant, berries, and red grapes.

Potential Links to Disease:

Studies have examined the relationship between anthocyanins from berries and cardiovascular disease in adult men and women. These studies have seen slight decreases in disease risk; those that saw the greatest disease risk were studies that included increased physical activity, altered fat intake, and in which participants consumed large amounts of anthocyanin rich foods (2,3).

Anthocyanins have also been loosely associated with improved cognition in older adults due to the decreases in inflammation and increased blood-flow (4,5).


Anthocyanins are a group of color containing compounds present in colorful fruits and vegetables that have some associated health benefits. Consuming fruits and vegetables of various colors as part of a balanced diet is recommended for optimal nutrition. More research is needed on the specifics of anthocyanin metabolism and absorption before they can be recommended for the prevention of disease.


1. Tsuda T. Dietary anthocyanin-rich plants: biochemical basis and recent progress in health benefits studies. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2012;56(1):159-170.

2. Mink PJ, Scrafford CG, Barraj LM, et al. Flavonoid intake and cardiovascular disease mortality: a prospective study in postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(3):895-909.

3. Cassidy A, O’Reilly EJ, Kay C, et al. Habitual intake of flavonoid subclasses and incident hypertension in adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;93(2):338-347.

4. Spencer JP. The impact of fruit flavonoids on memory and cognition. Br J Nutr. 2010;104 Suppl 3:S40-S47.

5. Youdim KA, Shukitt-Hale B, Joseph JA. Flavonoids and the brain: interactions at the blood-brain barrier and their physiological effects on the central nervous system. Free Radic Biol Med. 2004;37(11):1683-1693

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