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Anthocyanin supplement benefits and dosage

Anthocyanins are good for your brain. But what foods contain them, and should you take an anthocyanin supplement?

Sophie Medlin
Sophie Medlin
Head of Nutritional Research
February 21, 2020
8 min read

Blueberries have some of the highest cellular antioxidant activity compared to not only most fruits, but also amongst the most commonly consumed foods. That’s all down to anthocyanins. In this article, we’ll explain what anthocyanins are, and whether taking an anthocyanin supplement has any benefits.

Article breakdown

What are anthocyanins?

Anthocyanins are the pigment compounds that give dark foods (like blueberries, which we use in the Smart Supplement) their trademark purple-blue hue. They are also powerful antioxidants, eliminating free radicals that damage your cells. And like many antioxidants, blueberry anthocyanins have a wide range of benefits for your brain health, cardiovascular function, immune health and more.

Anthocyanins, and flavonoids in general, can also play a role in general neurobiology, including neurogenesis (the process of growing new neurons) and cell signalling and synaptic growth (the process of connecting different neurons so that your brain cells can communicate).

Should I be taking an anthocyanin supplement?

There are no official guidelines for anthocyanin intake. However, you're likely not getting enough at the moment. Limited studies in the past have indicated that most people only get approximately 12.5 mg of anthocyanins a day. And while the NHS recommends approximately five servings of fruits and vegetables a day (with a serving defined as two handfuls of blueberries), one out of 10 adults don't eat enough fruits and vegetables, and how many of us can say we eat two handfuls of blueberries a day?

Since antioxidants help protect your body from the cellular damage caused by environmental pollution, household toxins and other stressors, more may occasionally be better. This is especially true if you:

  • Engage in dietary and lifestyle habits that expose your body to higher-than-average free radical levels, such as smoking, eating processed foods, or drinking alcohol.

  • Are recovering from illness.

  • Work or live in an environment that exposes you to higher rates of environmental pollution (e.g., living in an urban environment, or working in a job that exposes you to a lot of chemicals or fumes).

Which foods contain anthocyanins?

Blueberries are the top source of anthocyanins. Other dietary sources are purple, black, red or blue plant-based foods that are high in this plant pigment, including:

  • Blackberries

  • Blackcurrants

  • Black rice

  • Cranberries

  • Cherries

  • Concord grapes

  • Purple corn

  • Red cabbage

However, fresh berries are not available all season, and freezing, drying or dehydrating them can sometimes degrade the antioxidant activity of anthocyanins.

For optimal intake, look for an anthocyanin supplement that contains pure blueberry extract. At Heights, our blueberry extract contains a significant 36% anthocyanin.

What are the benefits of an anthocyanin supplement?

Unlike many nutrients, anthocyanins have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, which may explain the direct correlation that researchers see between anthocyanin intake and brain function.

Research shows that anthocyanins may even have neuroprotective benefits in the brain, protecting your brain from toxins, inflammation and cellular injury. This combination of proactive brain health enhancements and protective brain defences may lead to cognitive benefits like:

Because of the potent antioxidant activity found in blueberries, well-researched benefits to your general physical health include:

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What are the symptoms of an anthocyanin deficiency?

There have been no studies quantifying the specific symptoms you may experience if you don't get enough anthocyanins. However, if you aren't providing your body with enough anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds in general, you may notice symptoms such as:

  • Increased fatigue and slower recovery from physical exercise.

  • Slower recovery from illness.

  • Brain fog, unclear thinking and other cognitive issues (especially because of anthocyanins' effects on neuroinflammation).

How we use anthocyanins in the Smart Supplement

Each dose of the Heights Smart Supplement contains 80mg of blueberry extract (containing 29mg of anthocyanins) for optimal brain health and cognition. That’s the equivalent of eating about 20 blueberries a day. You can be sure that:

  • Every dose contains exactly that amount

  • Our blueberry extract is pure and quality-tested.

  • Everything is manufactured in small batches.

  • It meets many common dietary and lifestyle practices: It's gluten-free, 100% plant-based, allergen-free and contains absolutely zero GMOs, contaminants, fillers or colourants.

Commonly asked questions about anthocyanin supplements?

Can I just eat extra blueberries?

Taking a supplement with anthocyanins ensures you're getting a clear, measurable dose of this brain-boosting antioxidant.

Plus, all antioxidants can degrade if the food is not properly stored. Anthocyanin supplements avoid this problem.

Is it possible to take too many anthocyanins?

At Heights, our Smart Supplement is carefully designed to provide you with the exact amount of anthocyanins and other nutrients that you need.

There is currently no research on upper tolerance levels of anthocyanins.

How long does an anthocyanin supplement take to start working?

Anthocyanin is a water-soluble flavonoid. It also has the rare ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. Therefore, it's absorbed very quickly (often within three to six hours of taking the supplement).

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Evidence

Here’s a handful of relevant scientific studies on blueberry polyphenols.

  • Rodriguez-Mateos, A., Cifuentes-Gómez, T., Tabatabaee, S., Lecras, C., & Spencer, J. P. (2012). Procyanidin, anthocyanin, and chlorogenic acid contents of highbush and lowbush blueberries. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 60(23), 5772-5778.

  • Khurana, S., Venkataraman, K., Hollingsworth, A., Piche, M., & Tai, T. C. (2013). Polyphenols: benefits to the cardiovascular system in health and in aging. Nutrients, 5(10), 3779-3827.

  • Boespflug, E. L., Eliassen, J. C., Dudley, J. A., Shidler, M. D., Kalt, W., Summer, S. S., ... & Krikorian, R. (2018). Enhanced neural activation with blueberry supplementation in mild cognitive impairment. Nutritional neuroscience, 21(4), 297-305.

  • Kalt, W., Cassidy, A., Howard, L. R., Krikorian, R., Stull, A. J., Tremblay, F., & Zamora-Ros, R. (2020). Recent research on the health benefits of blueberries and their anthocyanins. Advances in Nutrition, 11(2), 224-236.

  • Wilms, L. C., Boots, A. W., De Boer, V. C., Maas, L. M., Pachen, D. M., Gottschalk, R. W., ... & Kleinjans, J. C. (2007). Impact of multiple genetic polymorphisms on effects of a 4-week blueberry juice intervention on ex vivo induced lymphocytic DNA damage in human volunteers. Carcinogenesis, 28(8), 1800-1806. Chicago

  • Riso, P., Klimis-Zacas, D., Del Bo, C., Martini, D., Campolo, J., Vendrame, S., ... & Porrini, M. (2013). Effect of a wild blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) drink intervention on markers of oxidative stress, inflammation and endothelial function in humans with cardiovascular risk factors. European journal of nutrition, 52(3), 949-961.

  • Del Bo, C., Riso, P., Campolo, J., Møller, P., Loft, S., Klimis-Zacas, D., ... & Porrini, M. (2013). A single portion of blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L) improves protection against DNA damage but not vascular function in healthy male volunteers. Nutrition Research, 33(3), 220-227.

  • Willis, L. M., Shukitt-Hale, B., & Joseph, J. A. (2009). Recent advances in berry supplementation and age-related cognitive decline. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 12(1), 91-94.

  • Subash, S., Essa, M. M., Al-Adawi, S., Memon, M. A., Manivasagam, T., & Akbar, M. (2014). Neuroprotective effects of berry fruits on neurodegenerative diseases. Neural regeneration research, 9(16), 1557.

  • Tan, L., Yang, H., Pang, W., Li, H., Liu, W., Sun, S., ... & Jiang, Y. (2017). Investigation on the role of BDNF in the benefits of blueberry extracts for the improvement of learning and memory in Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 56(2), 629-640.

  • de Andrade Teles, R. B., Diniz, T. C., Costa Pinto, T. C., de Oliveira Júnior, R. G., Gama e Silva, M., de Lavor, É. M., ... & Cavalcante, T. C. F. (2018). Flavonoids as therapeutic agents in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases: a systematic review of preclinical evidences. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2018.

  • Whyte, A. R., Schafer, G., & Williams, C. M. (2016). Cognitive effects following acute wild blueberry supplementation in 7-to 10-year-old children. European journal of nutrition, 55(6), 2151-2162.

  • Yamakawa, M. Y., Uchino, K., Watanabe, Y., Adachi, T., Nakanishi, M., Ichino, H., ... & Kawata, Y. (2016). Anthocyanin suppresses the toxicity of Aβ deposits through diversion of molecular forms in in vitro and in vivo models of Alzheimer's disease. Nutritional Neuroscience, 19(1), 32-42.

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