Anthocyanin supplement benefits and dosage
Anthocyanins are good for your brain. But what foods contain them, and should you take an anthocyanin supplement?
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.
What are anthocyanins?
Anthocyanins are the pigment compounds that give dark foods 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:
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.
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:
Protection against age-related cognitive decline, with research showing that long-term intake of berry antioxidants builds up in your brain and can protect the neurons in your ageing nervous system.
A reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
Anti-ageing benefits in the brain (one study estimated that berry antioxidants could take up to 2.5 years off of the age of your brain).
Enhanced overall health, because the antioxidant activity of blueberries has general protective benefits against the cellular damage linked to disease, ageing and more.
What are the symptoms of low levels of anthocyanins?
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 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).
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?
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).