Circulating Anthocyanin Metabolites Mediate Vascular Benefits of Blueberries: Insights From Randomized Controlled Trials, Metabolomics, and Nutrigenomics

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2019 Jun 18;74(7):967-976. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glz047.


Potential health benefits of blueberries may be due to vascular effects of anthocyanins that predominantly circulate in blood as phenolic acid metabolites. We investigated which role blueberry anthocyanins and circulating metabolites play in mediating improvements in vascular function and explore potential mechanisms using metabolomics and nutrigenomics. Purified anthocyanins exerted a dose-dependent improvement of endothelial function in healthy humans, as measured by flow-mediated dilation. The effects were similar to those of wild blueberries containing similar amounts of anthocyanins, whereas control drinks containing fiber, minerals, or vitamins had no significant effect. Daily 1-month wild blueberry consumption increased flow-mediated dilation and lowered 24-hour ambulatory systolic blood pressure. Of the 63 anthocyanin plasma metabolites quantified, 14 and 21 correlated with acute and chronic flow-mediated dilation improvements, respectively. Injection of these metabolites improved flow-mediated dilation in mice. Daily wild blueberry consumption led to differential expression (>1.2-fold) of 608 genes and 3 microRNAs, with Mir-181c showing a 13-fold increase in peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Patterns of 13 metabolites were independent predictors of gene expression changes and pathway enrichment analysis revealed significantly modulated biological processes involved in cell adhesion, migration, immune response, and cell differentiation. Our results identify anthocyanin metabolites as major mediators of vascular bioactivities of blueberries and changes of cellular gene programs. Trial registration: NCT025208.

Trial registration: NCT02520830.

Keywords: Blueberries; Endothelial function; Metabolomics; Omics; Polyphenols.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthocyanins / metabolism*
  • Anthocyanins / pharmacology
  • Blueberry Plants*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / diet therapy
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Endothelium, Vascular* / drug effects
  • Endothelium, Vascular* / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular* / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Metabolomics / methods
  • Models, Animal
  • Nutrigenomics / methods
  • Phytotherapy / methods*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Anthocyanins

Associated data