Food-based anthocyanin intake and cognitive outcomes in human intervention trials: a systematic review

J Hum Nutr Diet. 2017 Jun;30(3):260-274. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12431. Epub 2016 Oct 11.


Background: Preclinical evidence suggests that the anthocyanins, which comprise a subclass of dietary flavonoids providing the purple and red pigmentation in plant-based foods, may have a beneficial impact on cognitive outcomes.

Methods: A systematic review was conducted to identify the published literature on food-based anthocyanin consumption and cognitive outcomes in human intervention trials. The literature search followed PRISMA guidelines and included six databases, as well as additional hand searching.

Results: Seven studies were included in this review, comprising acute trials (n = 4) and longer-term (n = 3) interventions that assessed multiple cognitive outcomes in children, adults and older adults with cognitive impairment. Six of seven studies reported improvements in either a single, or multiple, cognitive outcomes, including verbal learning and memory, after anthocyanin-rich food consumption. As a result of methodological limitations and the large clinical and methodological diversity of the studies, the pooling of data for quantitative analysis was not feasible.

Conclusions: The impact of food-based anthocyanin consumption on both acute and long-term cognition appears promising. However, adequately powered studies that include sensitive cognitive tasks are needed to confirm these findings and allow the translation of research into dietary messages.

Keywords: anthocyanins; cognition; flavonoids; polyphenols.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anthocyanins / administration & dosage*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Humans
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Non-Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Anthocyanins