Health Benefits of Food Pigments
Let’s talk about color in food! The greens, reds, yellows, blues and purples… how do these colors heal us? We’ve been talking about phytochemicals in the past several weeks, specifically the structures of the different flavonoids. This week we will focus on the powerful benefits derived from one of the subgroups of flavonoids—the anthocyanins.
Anthocyanins fall into the category of phytochemicals called pigments. They bring in the spectrum colors ranging from crimson and magenta to violet and indigo. The major anthocyanins are the following: delphinidin, cyanidin, petunidin, peonidin and malvidin. For example, the reason blueberries contain the blueish purple color is because of the delphinidin and petunidin—these two pigments are deep blue/purple. If we go to red raspberries they don’t make those pigments at all. They make almost exclusively cyanidin. They might make a little peonidin which is pink, but they make mostly cyanadin which is a reddish pigment. In raspberries that are very dark they just have a higher concentration of different cynadin glycosides that make different derivatives.
As long as we are talking about pigments, the other major class of phytochemicals that are plant pigments are the carotenoids, which are part of the Terpenoid, a first level sub-grouping of phytochemicals (see the flow chart from last week). The carotenoids are yellow, orange, and some red hues as in carrots, squash and tomatoes. The carotenoids are one of the largest and most important classes of plant pigments.
Chemically they are sorted into two classes, the carotenes and the xanthophylls—each with unique biological activity. Carotenoids, such as beta-carotene on the left, are void of any oxygen species are referred to as the carotenes, while those containing oxygen are know as the xanthophylls, on the right.
The long conjugated chain is responsible for the orange color of beta-carotene.
Carotenoids, anthocyanins and chlorophyll are the major pigments in the plant world. Chlorophyll is the green pigment found in abundance in the leaves and stems—making photosynthesis possible. In the Fall when the plant’s berry harvest has been completed, chlororphyll production is reduced and we see the leaves bleed through with reds and purples, as they are also loaded with anthocyanins or carotenoids. Different colors mean different flavonoids, and just as the different structures account for the different colors, the different colors provide different health benefits, and our bodies are designed to take in all of these molecules.
Now let’s look at the health benefits of the anthocyanins.
Epidemeological studies suggest that consuming anthocyanins regularily can lower the risk of CVD, arthritis, diabetes and cancer due to their antioxidant and antiinflammatory capabilities. Their phenolic structures laden with conjugated double bonds are responsible for their antioxidant capacity. Their double bonds are able to scavenge free radicals (ROS) such as superoxide anion, singlet oxygen, peroxides and hydroxyl radicals. (Prior and Wu 2006) That’s four out of five of the major free radical catagories that our bodies must control to maintain health.
In several in vitro studies using cell culture systems from colon, endothelial, liver, breast and luekemic cell lines, the anthocyanins displayed numerous antitoxic and anticarcenogenic effects based on their ability to scavenge ROS which stimulated the expression of Phase 2 Proteins and ultimately reducing oxidative adducts in DNA and hindering mutagenesis. (Wang and Stover, 2006).
Helping to prevent and even reverse cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis—not bad, but there is more. Anthocyanins can even protect and enhance the cognitive functioning of the brain! Protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s. Who wouldn’t want to consume foods rich in anthocyanins. This is what led us in the quest for foods with anthocyanins as a big part of their high actives. This is why we chose the Wild Blueberry as one of our Therapeutic Foods.
In some fruits you’ll find three, four, perhaps five types of anthocyanins. Wild blueberries can have as many as twenty-five or thirty. (Wilhelmina Kalt, PhD food chemist for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian equivalent of our USDA).
As James Joseph PhD, past Chief Nueroscientist at Tufts University and past head of the USDA Anti-Aging Center at Tufts, said, It’s not that the individual anthocyanins in blueberries are stronger than those in others fruits. It’s that blueberries have so darn many types and in such large concentrations. In ORAC tests by the USDA wild blueberries had the highest score of any fruit in North America.
The awesome antioxidant power of blueberries comes from two main souces. One is chlorogenic acid which is among the cancer fighters in tomatoes and bell peppers. Chlorogenic acid is found in large quantities in blueberries. And the other is in the anthocyanins. (Wilhemina Kalt, cited in The Color Code by Joseph)
In our Wild Blueberry Extract Therapeutic Foods supplement, we have concentrated the phenolics. A typical C of A results show 65% total phenolics, 19% anthocyanins and 5.8% chlorogenic acid with an ORAC of 7000 umole/gram. It takes us one cup and one-quarter of the Nova Scotia wild blueberries to fill one 500 mg capsule. The color is so blue that it is almost black. It provide much antioxidant, antiinflammatory, neuro-regenerative punch as documented over the years by our doctors with their patients. A side note: I hear quite frequently from our clients that they have tried the product on their animals with amazing results. After all it was, in part, the therapeutic success in animal research that made the case for possible successful outcomes for us humans.
Here is the link to our monograph on this product. You will be inspired. It is a very profound product—the Wild Blueberry Monograph. (When in, click on Blueberry dossier) Print it out so that your patients can read it.
This beauty is a Kobus ellipsprymnus—a Waterbuck. While the Blue Duikers from last week’s newsletter are not much taller than a jack rabbit, the waterbuck is a large antelope with a height of around 54 inches at the shoulder and a weight of up to 600 pounds. Their body is heavy set and their legs are strong and muscular. Even though they are called waterbucks they really only go into the water to escape preditors—lions, leopards, hyenas and Cape wild dogs, otherwise they prefer to stay out of the water. They have a wide distribution from sub-Saharan West Africa to most of East Africa.