What Are Anthocyanins?

Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, kidney beans, tomato, strawberries, grapes, and red wine

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

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Anthocyanins are a type of flavonoid, a class of compounds with antioxidant effects. Found naturally in a number of foods, anthocyanins are the pigments that give red, purple, and blue plants their rich coloring. In addition to acting as antioxidants and fighting free radicals, anthocyanins may offer anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer benefits.

In herbal medicine, anthocyanin-rich substances have long been used to treat a number of conditions involving blood vessel health, including chronic venous insufficiency, high blood pressure, and diabetic retinopathy. They have also been used to treat a number of other conditions, including colds and urinary tract infections. Recent research also suggests that anthocyanins may help fend off major health problems, including heart disease and cancer.

dietary sources of anthocyanins
Verywell / Hugo Lin

Anthocyanins are found in berries, red onions, kidney beans, pomegranates, grapes (including wine), tomatoes, acai, bilberry, chokeberry, elderberry, and tart cherries.

What Are Anthocyanins Used For?

Here's a look at several key findings on anthocyanins and their health effects.

Heart Disease

Anthocyanins may enhance heart health, according to a 2010 report published in Nutrition Reviews. The report's authors note that anthocyanins appear to improve cholesterol levels and blood sugar metabolism, as well as fight oxidative stress (a process known to play a role in heart disease).

Dietary intake of anthocyanins may also help prevent high blood pressure (a major risk factor for heart disease), according to a 2011 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


Anthocyanins may aid in the prevention of breast cancer, according to a laboratory study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2010. In test-tube experiments, scientists showed that anthocyanins extracted from blueberries helped inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells. However, a study published in 2017 said that more research is needed to find any affect on cancer.

Using Anthocyanins for Health

Getting your fill of anthocyanin-rich fruits and vegetables may help boost your overall health by offering up an array of nutrients and antioxidants. However, scientists have yet to determine whether taking high concentrations of anthocyanins in supplement form can help treat or prevent any specific health condition.

Keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety, and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label, so it's important to look for brands or products that have been certified by ConsumerLab, the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, or NSF International. Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

You can get tips on using supplements, but if you're considering the use of anthocyanins, talk with your primary care provider first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Cassidy A, O'Reilly ÉJ, Kay C, et al. Habitual intake of flavonoid subclasses and incident hypertension in adultsAm J Clin Nutr. 2011;93(2):338–347. doi:10.3945/ajcn.110.006783

  3. Faria A, Pestana D, Teixeira D, De freitas V, Mateus N, Calhau C. Blueberry anthocyanins and pyruvic acid adducts: anticancer properties in breast cancer cell lines. Phytother Res. 2010;24(12):1862-9. doi:10.1002/ptr.3213

  4. Lin BW, Gong CC, Song HF, Cui YY. Effects of anthocyanins on the prevention and treatment of cancerBr J Pharmacol. 2017;174(11):1226–1243. doi:10.1111/bph.13627