What Are the Benefits of Cyanidin?

cyanidin rich foods

Story at-a-glance -

  • Cyanidin and its glycosides are classified as anthocyanins, a large class of water-soluble plant compounds responsible for producing the brilliant blue, orange and red colors found in fruits and vegetables
  • Fruits such as blackberries, blueberries, cranberries and raspberries are rich in cyanidin, as are vegetables like eggplant, radishes, red cabbage and red onions
  • The highest concentrations of cyanidin are found in the skin
  • Because cyanidin is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, consumption of cyanidin-rich foods is believed to reduce your risk of arthritis, cancer and diabetes

By Dr. Mercola

Cyanidin and its glycosides are among the six major anthocyanins, which is a large class of water-soluble plant compounds responsible for producing the brilliant blue, orange and red colors found in fruits and vegetables. Fruits such as blackberries, blueberries, cranberries and raspberries — as well as apples, peaches and pears — are rich in anthocyanins, as are vegetables like eggplant, radishes, red cabbage and red onions.

The highest concentrations of cyanidin are found in the skin. Consumption of cyanidin-rich foods is believed to reduce your risk of arthritis, cancer and diabetes. If you are dealing with one of those conditions, or simply want to learn more about a plant compound that is beneficial to your health, you'll want to get better acquainted with cyanidin.

Cyanidin Is a Powerful Anti-Inflammatory, Antioxidant and Antitoxic

Beyond adding vibrant color to your fruits and vegetables, anthocyanins such as cyanidin have been shown to possess many health-boosting properties including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. According to phytochemical experts,1 cyanidin's radical-scavenging actions help protect your cells against oxidative damage and reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease. Its glycosides are easily absorbed into your blood plasma.

You may be interested to know cyanidin is considered to be a stronger antioxidant than vitamin C, vitamin E and resveratrol. As such, cyanidin quickly neutralizes reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as hydrogen peroxide, hydroxyl radical and reactive oxygen.2 Plants rich in anthocyanins may assist you in controlling inflammation, especially related to arthritis (more on that later).

For this reason, cyanidin is believed to be an important factor in the prevention of nitric oxide-mediated inflammatory diseases.3 Cyanidin also has been called out for its antitoxic properties, particularly its ability to resist mycotoxins caused by fungi. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition suggests cyanidin reduces DNA fragmentation and oxidative damage caused by:4

  • Aflatoxin B1 (AFB1), a carcinogenic metabolite produced by certain types of Aspergillus (mold) species
  • Ochratoxin A (OTA), a "possible carcinogen" that is a metabolite of Aspergillus ochraceus and Penicillium verrucosum, a type of cold-adapted fungus

About cyanidin's antitoxic effects, the researchers said, "Our experiments proved the significant cytoprotective effect of cyanidin-3-O-β-glucopyranoside (C3G) in vitro against OTA- and AFB1-induced cell damage."5

Cyanidin Shown to Positively Influence the Treatment of Malignant Colon Disease

In a study published in Scientific Reports,6 researchers from the University of Eastern Finland, working in conjunction with the U.S. National Institute on Aging, noted the promising role berry pigment, also known as anthocyanins, may play in cancer treatment. The study focused on the effect of berry pigment on sirtuins — a type of protein involved in regulating your body's cellular processes with respect to DNA repair, inflammation response reduction, longevity and metabolism.

Specifically, the study highlighted the effects of anthocyanins on a lesser-known sirtuin referred to as SIRT6, which has been linked to glucose metabolism.7 Given the study outcomes, it's possible the regulation of this enzyme could open up new avenues for cancer treatment.

"The most interesting results of our study relate to cyanidin, which is an anthocyanin found abundantly in wild bilberry, blackcurrant and lingonberry," says lead study author Minna Rahnasto-Rilla, who holds a doctorate in pharmacy at the University of Eastern Finland.8 Specifically, Rahnasto-Rilla and the school's sirtuin research group noted cyanidin:9

  • Increased SIRT6 levels in human colorectal cancer cells
  • Decreased the expression of the twist-related protein (Twist1) and glucose transporters (GLUT1) cancer genes
  • Increased the expression of the tumor-suppressor forkhead box O3 (FoXO3) gene in cells

The findings show anthocyanins such as cyanidin, which are abundant in berries, can increase the activation of SIRT6, and therefore reduce the expression of cancer genes as well as cancer cell growth. The study authors stated: "The most potent SIRT6 activator, cyanidin, belonged to anthocyanidins and produced a 55-fold increase in SIRT6 activity compared to the 3 to tenfold increase for the others. Cyanidin also significantly increased SIRT6 expression in Caco-2 (colon cancer) cells."10

Cyanidin May Be a Key in Prostate Care

According to the American Cancer Society,11 prostate cancer is second only to skin cancer as the most common cancer among U.S. men. They suggest about 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with the disease during his lifetime. Notably, about 60 percent of the cases are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older.

In 2018, more than 164,000 new cases of the disease are expected to be diagnosed and upward of 29,000 American men die of prostate cancer annually. Given these facts, the good news is cyanidin has been shown to be a beneficial natural treatment for prostate cancer.

Researchers have long thought differences in diet — particularly the consumption of wine, which contains cyanidin and other beneficial polyphenols — may explain the high rates of prostate cancer in the U.S. as compared to the much lower rates among men living in Mediterranean countries. In those countries, a diet rich in fish and olive oil, as well as healthy amounts of fruits, nuts and vegetables, is thought to act as a natural cancer inhibitor. Authors of a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry said:12

"Epidemiological evidence indicates that polyphenolic compounds in diets are protective against cancer, and cyanidin and kaempferol are abundant in wine and plants.

Therefore, the objective of the investigation was to determine the effects of cyanidin and kaempferol on prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) protein levels, and if peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARgamma) and nuclear factor kappaB (NFkappaB) are involved in the expression of COX-2 in prostate cancer cells."

What they found was that cyanidin lessens PGE2 production and COX-2 expression in human prostate cancer cells. The study authors stated, "Cyanidin and kaempferol … reduced the level of PGE2 in … cell cultures and also attenuated the effect of arachidonic acid on increasing the amount of PGE2.

Cyanidin reduced the levels of COX-2 protein in a dose- and time-dependent fashion."13 A 2015 study published in the International Journal of Oncology14 found cyanidin induced cell death and differentiation in prostate cancer cells. About the results, the researchers said:15

"[C]ompounds like polyphenols, capable of inducing differentiation may represent potential chemotherapeutic agents. We show for the first time that C3G, the most abundant anthocyanin in the human diet, inhibits cell growth and cell viability, resulting in the reversion of both androgen-sensitive (LnCap) and of the androgen-independent (DU145) [prostate cancer] cells from a proliferating to a differentiated state."

Cyanidin Protects Your Heart; Be Sure to Eat Blueberries and Strawberries

Blueberries and strawberries, both of which are rich in anthocyanins, including cyanidin, are highly regarded for their role in helping protect your heart and lower your blood pressure. Past research revealed that women ages 25 to 42 who ate more than three servings per week of blueberries and strawberries had a 32 percent lower risk of having a heart attack.16

Anthocyanins are known to benefit the endothelial lining of your circulatory system, possibly preventing plaque buildup in your arteries, as well as promoting healthy blood pressure.

Other research has shown these antioxidants to protect against heart disease by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, while enhancing capillary strength and inhibiting platelet formation.17 Eating blueberries has also been shown to lower your blood pressure. A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics18 involving postmenopausal women suggests blueberry consumption positively affects blood pressure.

The women, who had either prehypertension or hypertension, received a placebo powder or freeze-dried blueberry powder — an amount equivalent to about 1 cup of fresh blueberries — daily for eight weeks. While the placebo group saw no significant changes, the women supplementing with blueberries realized a 5 to 6 percent drop in both their systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure readings.

Measurements of nitric oxide were also significantly increased in the blueberry group, with no such change in the control group. Nitric oxide helps your blood vessels maintain their elasticity and also dilates your blood vessels, thereby reducing your blood pressure. The study authors stated: "Daily blueberry consumption may reduce blood pressure and arterial stiffness, which may be due, in part, to increased nitric oxide production."

Can Cyanidin Help Prevent and Control Diabetes?

The significance of anthocyanins, such as cyanidin, in the prevention and treatment of Type 2 diabetes was highlighted in a 2018 literature review conducted at the Wroclaw Medical University in Poland.19

The study authors reviewed previous research related to the importance of anthocyanins in regulating carbohydrate metabolism and reducing insulin resistance as major factors in lowering the risk of Type 2 diabetes. According to the team, to date, a number of studies involving humans and animals have demonstrated anthocyanins:20

Enhance the secretion of adiponectin and leptin

Fuel the activation of adenosine triphosphate (AMP)-activated protein kinase

Increase the activation of PPARγ in adipose tissue and skeletal muscles

Inhibit intestinal alpha-glucosidase and pancreatic alpha-amylase

Reduce retinol binding protein 4 (RBP4) expression

Regulate glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT4) gene expression and translocation

Additionally, anthocyanins were found to improve insulin secretion by rodent pancreatic beta cells. Because individual anthocyanins and their glycosides have different activity, the researchers recommended eating a variety of plant products as part of your daily diet to ensure you are getting a wide range of anthocyanins.

Cyanidin Found in Cherries Shown to Decrease Arthritis in Lab Rats

A 2005 Chinese study21 suggests cyanidin — specifically cyanidin from cherries — due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, helped decrease arthritis (paw swelling) in lab rats. After arthritis was introduced via injection into the paws of four groups of lab rats, researchers treated three of the groups with cyanidin. One group received a high dose, another a middle dose and the third a low dose.

The hind legs of the rats in the four injection groups, as well as those in a separate control group, were observed over a 14-day period. The researchers noted cyanidin could protect against paw swelling in the rats receiving the arthritis injections. Throughout the study, swelling in the cyanidin-treated groups was significantly reduced compared with the group that received the injection but no cyanidin treatment. The study authors stated:22

"Histological examination of sections through the hind limbs revealed alleviation of inflammatory reaction in the joint after the treatment. The cyanidin could protect against the paws swelling in arthritis-induced rats, and alleviate the inflammatory reaction in the joint, and the mechanism might … improve the total antioxidative capacity and scavenge the free radicals … The results suggest cyanidin from cherries could be one of the potential candidates for the alleviation of arthritis."

Although Cyanidin Is Beneficial, You Must Limit Your Daily Fructose Intake

While berries and other colorful fruits are both tasty and nutrient-rich, I recommend you eat them in moderation. Even though whole fruit contains natural sugars, for optimal health, you must limit your fruit intake. As such, I advise you keep your total fructose intake below 25 grams (g) daily, including fructose from whole fruit.

If you have diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or insulin resistance you should limit your daily intake of fructose to 15 g until your condition improves. Because most berries and thin-skinned fruits are sprayed with pesticides, it's always best to buy organic or grow your own. Below is a table showing the amount of fructose present in various cyanidin-rich fruits:23

Fruit Serving Size Fructose (g)
Apple 1 medium 9.5
Blackberries 1 cup 3.5
Blueberries 1 cup 7.4
Boysenberries 1 cup 4.6
Cherries, sour 1 cup 4.0
Cherries, sweet 10 3.8
Cranberries 1 cup 0.7
Peach 1 medium 5.9
Pear 1 medium 11.8
Raspberries 1 cup 3.0
Strawberries 1 cup 3.8