Anthocyanins: natural colorants with health-promoting properties

Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2010;1:163-87. doi: 10.1146/


Anthocyanins are flavonoids in fruits and vegetables that render them vivid red to blue. To date, there have been more than 635 anthocyanins identified in nature, featuring six common aglycones and various types of glycosylations and acylations. Dietary consumption of anthocyanins is high compared to other flavonoids, owing to their wide distribution in plant materials. Based upon many cell-line studies, animal models, and human clinical trials, it has been suggested that anthocyanins possess anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic activity, cardiovascular disease prevention, obesity control, and diabetes alleviation properties, all of which are more or less associated with their potent antioxidant property. Evidence suggests that absorption of anthocyanins occurs in the stomach and small intestine. Epithelial tissue uptake seems to be highly efficient, yet transportation into circulation, tissue distribution, and urine excretion are very limited. The bioactivity of bioavailable anthocyanins should be a focus of future research regarding their putative health-promoting effects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthocyanins / administration & dosage
  • Anthocyanins / chemistry*
  • Anthocyanins / metabolism*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / chemistry
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / metabolism
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / chemistry
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / metabolism
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Antioxidants / chemistry*
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Food Coloring Agents / administration & dosage
  • Food Coloring Agents / chemistry
  • Food Coloring Agents / metabolism
  • Fruit / chemistry*
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Pigmentation*
  • Vegetables / chemistry*


  • Anthocyanins
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Food Coloring Agents