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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Little Rock, Arkansas » Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #195541


item Prior, Ronald

Submitted to: Free Radical Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/15/2006
Publication Date: 10/10/2006
Citation: Prior, R.L., Wu, X. 2006. Anthocyanins: structural characteristics that result in unique metabolic patterns and biological activities. Free Radical Research. 40(10):1014-1028.

Interpretive Summary: Anthocyanins are water soluble plant pigments that account for the dark blue and red colors in many berries and fruits and some vegetables. Anthocyanins have important functions in plant physiology, as well as possible health effects. Anthocyanins in plants generally have sugars attached to the basic structure (termed aglycone) that is responsible for producing the color. This research covers recent findings on the absorption and metabolism of anthocyanins and tissue distribution. Understanding of these processes is critical to investigation of health benefits of increased intake of anthocyanins. Numerous potential health benefits are reviewed, but considerable more research is needed to understand mechanisms, etc. The daily intake of anthocyanins has been estimated to be 12.5 mg/day per person in the United States, but intakes could easily be over 200 mg per day if a regular diet of fruit and berries was consumed. Improved recommendations for intakes of fruits and berries will result from a better understanding of their absorption and metabolism and their impact on the cardiovascular system and on diseases such as diabetes.

Technical Abstract: Interest in anthocyanins has increased immensely during the past decade. From these studies, it is clear that anthocyanins have unique properties: Anthocyanins are absorbed intact, and absorption can be saturated; acylation of anthocyanins lowers their apparent absorption; anthocyanidin diglycosides in the form of sambubioside or rutinoside impart increased stability to the anthocyanin molecule; and the quantities excreted in urine are less than 0.1% of intake. However, 60-90% of the anthocyanins may disappear from the gastrointestinal tract within 4 h after a meal. What happens to the bulk of the anthocyanins that disappear is not clear. Degradation accounts for a part of this disappearance, but differs for the various aglycones and may be modified further by the nature of the aglycone glycosylation, which further complicates our understanding of this process. Anthocyanins may play an important role in health promotion in terms of obesity prevention, cardiovascular health, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects.