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The Color Purple: A Disease Fighter

The Color Purple: A Disease Fighter

Blackberries contain anthocyanins, which may reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

Janet Helm | Chicago Tribune

Studies with these deeply hued fruits have shown promising health benefits, but scientists are investigating ways to boost the level of anthocyanins in commonly eaten foods to offer even greater health-promoting potential. Among the findings:

•Researchers in Great Britain used genes from snapdragons to generate higher production of anthocyanins in tomatoes, which resulted in intensely purple tomatoes with anthocyanins levels comparable to blackberries and blueberries. The life span of cancer-susceptible mice was significantly extended when the diet included the purple tomatoes compared with the normal red tomatoes.

•Anthocyanins from purple corn were the most potent in inhibiting the growth of colon cancer cells compared to the other vegetables and fruits evaluated by Ohio State University researchers.

•Rats who ate black raspberries—which are particularly rich in anthocyanins—were 50 percent less prone to developing cancerous tumors in the esophagus. The study, also conducted at Ohio State University, found that the berries helped fight cancer by reducing inflammation, suppressing growth of cancer cells and triggering cancer cell death.

Despite the hot trend and health-promoting potential of the color purple, an analysis by the Produce for Better Health Foundation found that only 3 percent of the fruits and vegetables consumed in the U.S. are from the purple or blue category.

With the growing interest in anthocyanins, you’ll begin to see pills and products fortified with fruit extracts, but Joseph recommended sticking with the real thing.

“You’re better off with the whole fruit or vegetable.”

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