Raspberries, blueberries, and other berries contain natural pigments known as anthocyanins which give them their deep color. Numerous studies show that anthocyanins fight the inflammation that leads to aging. A new study from the University of Eastern Finland shows that anthocyanins increase the function of an enzyme in cancer cells that fights cancer called sirtuin 6 enzyme (SIRT6).
Sirtuins are enzymes that regulate the expression of genes that control the function of cells through key cellular signaling pathways. Aging causes changes in the function of sirtuin, and these changes contribute to the development of various diseases.
"The most interesting results of our study relate to cyanidin, which is an anthocyanin found abundantly in wild bilberry, blackcurrant and lingonberry," says the study's lead author Minna Rahnasto-Rilla.
Cyanidin increased SIRT6 enzyme levels in human colorectal cancer cells. The researchers also found it decreased the expression of two cancer genes — Twist1 and GLUT1. At the same time, cyanidin increased the expression of the tumor-suppressing FoXO3 gene in cells.
The findings that anthocyanins increase the activation of SIRT6 lays the foundation for the development of new cancer drugs.
The study's findings were published in Scientific Reports.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that pigs fed a high-calorie diet supplemented with purple potatoes, which are high in anthocyanins, lowered their risk of developing colon cancer. Pigs fed purple potatoes had levels of an inflammatory protein called interleukin-6 that were six times lower than that of pigs on a regular high-fat diet. Interleukin-6 is associated with the development of cancer.
The study authors suggested that a daily cup of fresh or frozen berries fights the inflammation that leads to aging.
A study from the U.K.'s University of East Anglia found that people who ate the most blueberries and strawberries — three or more servings a week — reduced their risk of a heart attack by a third when compared to women who ate berries once a month or less. Experts believe berries' heart-healthy effects are due to anthocyanins, which help prevent the buildup of plaque in arteries.
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