Anthocyanin supplements’ effects on markers of cardiovascular disease

Findings suggest that people with cardiovascular disease may benefit from taking anthocyanins to improve their LDL cholesterol level

According to the World Health Organisation, cardiovascular disease is the world’s number one cause of death. Diet and lifestyle factors can greatly affect cardiovascular disease risk and are an important way to lower cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.

Fruit and vegetable consumption may be inversely associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, according to research. Specifically, berries have been shown to promote heart health. This may be attributable, in part, to the anthocyanins they contain — the colourful pigments found in berries and other plant-derived foods.

Anthocyanins are flavonoids, and they have been the focus of a number of studies because of their promise in reducing cardiovascular disease risk.

Most of these studies have focused on whole foods sources of anthocyanins, but a systematic review published in 2016 in the journal Nutrients analysed the results of trials using purified anthocyanins or anthocyanin-rich extracts in cardiovascular health. The researchers reviewed 12 randomised controlled trials, representing 10 studies. They evaluated biomarkers of cardiovascular health including lipids, triglycerides and blood pressure.

The analysis showed that supplementing with anthocyanins significantly improved LDL cholesterol in people who were already suffering cardiovascular disease or who had elevated biomarkers of cardiovascular disease. No other biomarkers were affected significantly by supplementation. The duration of the studies ranged from 3–24 weeks, and the anthocyanin dose administered ranged from 7.35–640mg/day. Doses up to 640mg/day did not result in any adverse effects.

This systematic review was limited because of the variability in anthocyanin dosages used in the various trials, as well as short trial durations. The authors of this review point out that longer duration trials are needed to assess dose response. However, the findings — that anthocyanins are safe and improve LDL cholesterol — suggest people with cardiovascular disease may benefit from taking these supplements.