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Anthocyanins' Antioxidant Properties Facing Atherosclerosis

03/15/2022

Nutritional science graduate student Chelsea Garcia and associate professor Christopher Blesso recently published an article in Free Radical Biology and Medicine outlining the research to date on a type of antioxidant called anthocyanins and its impact on atherosclerosis.

ateriosclerosis-medical-condition

Atherosclerosis is associated with oxidative stress, a process our bodies undergo throughout our lifetime as they encounter free radicals. These oxygen-containing molecules are highly reactive and unstable. They occur when a molecule gains or loses an electron. The unpaired electron on the free radical can react with other molecules and cause age-related harms in the body.

Anthocyanins had largely been neglected by researchers because they have lower bioavailability and are not as well-absorbed as other antioxidants. However, more recent studies have shown that anthocyanins significantly boost the activity of the body's naturally occurring antioxidant enzymes. Anthocyanins also increase the antioxidant properties of HDL, or "good" cholesterol.

"Rather than directly acting as antioxidants, they can also help the body increase its own enzyme defense system," Blesso says.

Blesso and Garcia's work consolidates the major scientific findings on anthocyanins and atherosclerosis into a comprehensive reference for future studies.

One of the major gaps Garcia identified is the need for more studies in humans. Many of the studies conducted in preclinical animal models used concentrations of antioxidants that would be much too high for human consumption.

Many foods, including berries which Blesso studies in his lab, contain a high amount of antioxidants. Incorporating these foods into a healthy diet can help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis.

"It's important to know the mechanisms behind the action of the things that we eat," Blesso says.

This level of information is important for supporting the increasing trend toward individualized nutrition.

"Knowing the mechanism is also useful when identifying a bioactive compound as a potential treatment for other diseases with similar pathology or intervention targets," Garcia says.

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 Polyphenols Applications 2022 Congress will highlight the many benefits of polyphenols.