Effects of Berry Anthocyanins on Cognitive Performance, Vascular Function and Cardiometabolic Risk Markers: A Systematic Review of Randomized Placebo-Controlled Intervention Studies in Humans

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Jun 17;22(12):6482. doi: 10.3390/ijms22126482.


Supplementation with anthocyanins, which are a type of flavonoids mainly found in various berries, is hypothesized to be a promising approach to lower the risk of developing cognitive decline. The aim of this systematic review was to provide a comprehensive overview of dietary intervention trials describing effects of berry anthocyanins on cognitive performance in humans, while also addressing potential underlying mechanisms. A total of 1197 articles were identified through a systematic search, and 49 studies reporting effects on cognitive performance (n = 18), vascular function (n = 22), or cardiometabolic risk markers (n = 32) were included. Significant improvements were observed on memory, while some of the studies also reported effects on attention and psychomotor speed or executive function. Vascular function markers such as brachial artery flow-mediated vasodilation were also affected and consistent evidence was provided for the beneficial effects of berry anthocyanins on endothelial function. Finally, studies reported improvements in blood pressure, but effects on metabolic risk markers (e.g. carbohydrate and lipid metabolism) were less consistent. In conclusion, this review provides evidence for the beneficial effects of berry anthocyanins on cognitive performance as memory improved. Whether observed anthocyanin-induced improvements in vascular function and blood pressure underlie beneficial effects on cognitive performance warrants further study.

Keywords: anthocyanins; cardiometabolic risk markers; cognitive performance; vascular function.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anthocyanins / administration & dosage
  • Anthocyanins / pharmacology*
  • Attention / drug effects
  • Biomarkers*
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Blood Vessels / drug effects*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Fruit / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects
  • Pulse Wave Analysis
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Anthocyanins
  • Biomarkers