Berries For a Healthy Heart

Ever wonder why nutritionists advise you to consume brightly colored fruits and vegetables such a purple cabbbage, berries and capsicum? Most such advisories are accompanied by a generic soothing reason- it is good for your health!

Turns out, that IS very good advice. Plants have a class of pigments named as anthocyanins which when present in various combinations impart vivid colours such as red, purple, black and pink to flowers and fruits. These anthocyanins do not serve only an aesthetic purpose but are also nutritive.

A group of Korean scientists have investigated the effects of plant-derived anthocyanins on fat cells. These scientists have extracted some anthocyanins derived from black soyabeans and tested them on fat cells. Black soybean anthocyanins showed some surprising results. The addition of these anthocyanins to cell cultures prevented the development of early stage fat cells into full-fledged fat cells. The anthocyanins also halted the accumulation of fats into these cells.

Anthocyanins from Kamchatka berries are known to correct digestive problems in mice. Mice were fed a high-fat diet to ensure that LDL levels in their blood were high enough to cause atherosclerosis. Subsequently, these animals were treated with an anthocyanin extract from the Kamchatka variety of honeysuckle berries. Consumption of the extract derived from Kamchatka honeysuckle berries allowed the mice to recover from the metabolic syndrome (prescursor stage of diabetes) that was induced because of the high fat and high-sugar diet. The anthocyanins helped to increase secretion of digestive enzymes as well as restored the insulin metabolism to normal levels in these mice.

Extracts from chokeberries can also confer similar health benefits. Chokeberries are commonly found throughout North America and have also been naturalized to most European climates too.

Chokeberry extracts were fed to mice raised on a high- fructose diet. A diet rich in high-fructose corn syrup and other high-fructose sweeteners tends to induce metabolic syndrome in people as well as in experimental animals. Consumption of a small amount of chokeberry extract (100 -200 mg/kg body weight in the drinking water of these mice) helped to lower the levels of triacylglycerols, LDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol and glucose in the blood of these animals. Mice fed on the extracts also had lesser fat mass in the epididymal fat bodies. The anthocyanins from chokeberries , thus, reversed the physiological progression of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.

Nature’s pigments- the anthocyanins- may therefore help to prevent as well as reverse major health problems like obesity, diabetes and heart attacks that result from metabolic syndrome.

References

1. An extract of chokeberry attenuates weight gain and modulates insulin, adipogenic and inflammatory signalling pathways in epididymal adipose tissue of rats fed a fructose-rich diet.

Qin B, Anderson RA.

Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug;108(4):581-7.

2. Black soybean anthocyanins inhibit adipocyte differentiation in 3T3-L1 cells.

Kim HK, Kim JN, Han SN, Nam JH, Na HN, Ha TJ.

Nutr Res. 2012 Oct;32(10):770-7.