Bilberry and blueberry anthocyanins act as powerful intracellular antioxidants in mammalian cells

Food Chem. 2012 Oct 15;134(4):1878-84. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2012.03.092. Epub 2012 Mar 30.


Berry anthocyanins have pronounced health effects, even though they have a low bioavailability. The common mechanism underlying health protection is believed to relate to antioxidant activity. Berry extracts, chemically characterised for their phenolic content, were prepared from bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillusL.) and blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosumL.); the bilberry extract was further purified to obtain the anthocyanin fraction. The antioxidant activity of each extract was examined at the cellular level. For this purpose a specific assay, known as cellular antioxidant activity assay (CAA), was implemented in different cell lines: human colon cancer (Caco-2), human hepatocarcinoma (HepG2), human endothelial (EA.hy926) and rat vascular smooth muscle (A7r5). Here we show for the first time that anthocyanins had intracellular antioxidant activity if applied at very low concentrations (<1 μg/l; nM range), thereby providing a long-sought rationale for their health protecting effects in spite of their unfavorable pharmacokinetic properties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthocyanins / chemistry*
  • Anthocyanins / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / chemistry*
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Blueberry Plants / chemistry*
  • Cell Line
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Humans
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Vaccinium myrtillus / chemistry*


  • Anthocyanins
  • Antioxidants
  • Plant Extracts