Complementary Approaches: Anthocyanin


Classified as:
Phytochemical,  Polyphenol, Flavonoid, Anthocyanidin

Structure of anthocyanin.
Structure of Anthocyanin

Intro and Background
The term anthocyanin refers to a group of compounds found in vegetables, citrus fruits, red wine, and especially in edible berries. Anthocyanins are responsible for the red, blue, and purple colors of many plants. 1 They may help prevent cardiovascular disorders, age complications, obesity, inflammatory responses, cancer, and other degenerative diseases.21 These compounds also exhibit antioxidant behavior* which can help protect DNA and its structure.2 Anthocyanins leave the body quickly after they are eaten, and it is not currently known where and how quickly they are absorbed. 1 These types of compounds may fight cancer by inducing apoptosis and inhibiting proliferation of cancer cells. 3

Scientific Research
Studies have shown that anthocyanins can slow the growth of tumor cells in vitro.4567 Because it is unclear how anthocyanins will act in animal experiments, 8 no clinical trials seem to have been performed to investigate the ability of anthocyanins to treat cancer in humans. Most of the recent research seems to be focused on the ability of anthocyanins to prevent cancer rather than treat it. Anthocyanins do not seem to have side effects in studies done on cells in vitro. 9

Currently, a trial investigating the ability of anthocyanin to modulate the side effects of radiation in breast cancer patients is recruiting participants.10 For information about ongoing clinical trials involving anthocyanins, please visit our section on Finding Clinical Trials.

US Food and Drug Administration Approval
There is not enough evidence to support the effectiveness of anthocyanins in the fight against cancer, and they have not been approved by the FDA for cancer treatment. 11

*It is important to keep in mind that many cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation, work by generating free radicals in order to destroy cancer cells. If a cancer patient takes antioxidants while undergoing radiation or chemotherapy treatment, it is possible that these compounds may protect tumor cells from the desired free radicals. Doctors may recommend that patients undergoing these treatments avoid antioxidants so that the treatment is as effective as possible. 12

Please be sure to see our notice on complementary therapies. To better understand and evaluate the research described above, read our Introduction to Scientific Research.

  • 1. a. b. c. Prior RL, Wu X. Anthocyanins: structural characteristics that result in unique metabolic patterns and biological activities. Free Radic Res. (2006) 40(10): 1014-28 [PUBMED]
  • 2. a. b. Zafra-Stone S, YAsmin T., Baqchi M., Chatterjee A., Vinson J.A., Bachi D.Berry anthocyanins as novel antioxidants in human health and disease prevention. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. (2007) 51:6, 675-683 [PUBMED]
  • 3. Wu QK, Koponen JM, Mykkanen HM, Torronen AR. Berry phenolic extracts modulate the expression of p21(WAF1) and Bax but not Bcl-2 in HT-29 colon cancer cells. J Agric Food Chem. (2007) 55(4): 1156-63 [PUBMED]
  • 4. Valcheva-Kuzmanova S.V., Belcheva A. Colon-available raspberry polyphenols exhibit anti-cancer effects on in vitro models of colon cancer. Journal of Carcinogenesis (2007) Apr 18; 6: 4 [PUBMED]
  • 5. Ferguson, P. J.; Kurowska, E.; Freeman, D. J.; Chambers, A. F.; Koropatnick, D. J. A flavonoid fraction from cranberry extract inhibits proliferation of human tumor cell lines. Journal of Nutrition. 2004, 134, 1529-1535. [PUBMED]
  • 6. Seeram, N. P.; Adams, L. S.; Hardy, M. L.; Heber, D. Total cranberry extract versus its phytochemical constituents: antiproliferative and synergistic effects against human tumor cell lines. Journal of Agric. Food Chem. 2004, 52, 2512-2517 [PUBMED]
  • 7. Anwar S, Fratantonio D, Ferrari D, Saija A, Cimino F, Speciale A. Berry anthocyanins reduce proliferation of human colorectal carcinoma cells by inducing caspase-3 activation and p21 up regulation. Mol Med Rep. 2016 Jun 13. [PUBMED]
  • 8. Neto CC. Cranberry and blueberry: Evidence for protective effects against cancer and vascular diseases. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. (2007) 51(6): 652-664. [PUBMED]
  • 9. Stopper H, Schmitt E, Kobras K. Genotoxicity of phytoestrogens. Mutat Res. (2005) 574(1-2):139-55 [PUBMED]
  • 10. Neuromed IRCCS. Supplementation With Dietary Anthocyanins and Side Effects of Radiotherapy for Breast Cancer (ATHENA). Apr 2015. []
  • 11. US Food and Drug Adminstration website. Accessed 6/20/2016. []
  • 12. Borek C. Dietary antioxidants and human cancer. Integr Cancer Ther (2004). 3: 333-341. [PUBMED]