Anthocyanins and the broader class of polyphenols are strong antioxidants in vitro. Polyphenols are one of the major antioxidants in plant foods, and the beverages derived from them. There is extensive evidence in the literature that polyphenols are beneficial to health. In order to be bioactive in vivo, they need to be bioavailable and be transported from the circulation to target organs. To date, there have been few studies testing the extent to which polyphenols and especially anthocyanins affect the antioxidant capacity of animal organs. In our first pilot study, we investigated how three pure polyphenols (the flavonoids quercetin, catechin and hesperetin) given to rats by intraperitoneal injection (49 to 63 mg/kg) affected their organ antioxidant capacity. This was followed by a subsequent study that injected one ml of 100% cranberry juice (high in anthocyanins) to hamsters. Antioxidant capacity of animal organs was determined by using the ferric reducing antioxidant power (FRAP) colorimetric assay on methanolic extracts of select rat organs (i.e., liver, kidney, heart, prostate and brain) and in the hamster organs (i.e., liver, kidney, heart, bladder and brain). Overall the results showed that antioxidant capacity was significantly increased (p < 0.05) in experimental vs. control organs. Analysis of organs by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) from both animal studies provided evidence of polyphenol metabolites in the organ extracts. Taken together, this study provides data that the administration of anthocyanins and other polyphenols cause an increase in organ antioxidant capacity in two animal models. This result supports the growing evidence for the hypothesis that dietary polyphenols reduce the risk and extent of various chronic disease at the disease site.
Keywords: anthocyanins; antioxidant capacity; cranberry juice; organs; polyphenols.