Anthocyanin structure is key to cancer-fighting abilities

The structure of anthocyanins, the antioxidant pigments from a range of fruit and vegetables, is key to their cancer-fighting abilities, according to a recent study.

Published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the study reports that certain types of anthocyanins have greater activity against colon cancer than others.

“The chemical structures of anthocyanins do have a significant impact on their biological activity, and data suggest that nonacylated monoglycosylated anthocyanins are more potent inhibitors of colon cancer cell growth proliferation,” wrote lead author Pu Jing from The Ohio State University of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Maryland. The researchers cautioned that more research is necessary to explore the role of anthocyanin structure and the chemo-protective effects.

Jing and coworkers compared the chemo-protective properties of anthocyanins-rich extracts (AREs) from purple corn, chokeberry, bilberry, purple carrot, grape, radish and elderberry. Their ability to influence the growth of colon cancer cells (HT29 cell line) in the lab was measured according to the growth inhibition (GI50) scale, based on quantifying the concentration of extract necessary to inhibit the growth of cancer cells by 50%.

Anthocyanins from purple corn were found to be the most potent, with a GI50 value of 14 mcg per milliliter. Bilberry and chokeberry shared second spot, followed by purple carrot and grape. The least active with respect to GI50 were the extracts from radish and elderberry with a GI value of 100 mcg per milliliter.

“Anthocyanins played a major role in AREs’ chemo-protection and exerted an additive interaction with the other phenolics present,” stated the researchers. “Evidence is mounting that anthocyanins may play a major role in the chemo-protective action of anthocyanins-rich foods or commodities.”

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry Published online ahead of print.