Anthocyans from fruits and vegetables--does bright colour signal cancer chemopreventive activity?

Eur J Cancer. 2005 Sep;41(13):1931-40. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2005.06.009.


Consumption of fruits and berries has been associated with decreased risk of developing cancer. The most abundant flavonoid constituents of fruits and berries are anthocyans (i.e. anthocyanins, glycosides, and their aglycons, anthocyanidins) that cause intense colouration. In this review, we describe epidemiological evidence hinting at the cancer preventive activity of anthocyan-containing foods in humans, results of chemoprevention studies in rodent models with anthocyans or anthocyan-containing fruit/vegetable extracts, and pharmacological properties of anthocyans. Anthocyanidins have been shown to inhibit malignant cell survival and confound many oncogenic signalling events in the 10(-6)-10(-4) M concentration range. Studies of the pharmacokinetics of anthocyanins after their consumption as single agents, anthocyanin mixtures or berry extracts suggest that anthocyanins reach levels of 10(-8)-10(-7) M in human blood. It is unclear whether such concentrations are sufficient to explain anticarcinogenic effects, and whether anthocyanins exert chemopreventive efficacy themselves, or if they need to undergo hydrolysis to their aglyconic counterparts. The currently available literature provides tantalising hints of the potential usefulness of anthocyans or anthocyan mixtures as cancer chemopreventive interventions. Nevertheless further studies are necessary to help adjudge the propitiousness of their clinical development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthocyanins / analysis
  • Anthocyanins / chemistry
  • Anthocyanins / pharmacology*
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / analysis
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology
  • Color*
  • Fruit*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diet therapy
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Vegetables*


  • Anthocyanins
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents