As previous posts have detailed, the super-fruit Aronia contains unparalleled levels of healthy anthocyanins.
The purpose of this post is to provide further insight into the beneficial effects anthocyanin-rich fruits such as Aronia can have on cardiovascular health.
First off, it is helpful to have some insight into what types of empiric evidence can we trust. Clinical trials are one of the best objective measures, but not all clinical trials are created equal. The randomized controlled trials (RCTs) tend to be well-designed and executed; however, they also take the longest time frame and therefore we often see them in conjunction with epidemiological studies. Double-blinded, placebo-controlled RCTs are the gold standard in clinical trials.
Double-blinded means that neither the patient nor the researcher knows what they ingested. This is to prevent any sort of experimenter bias from occurring, a psychological phenomenon in which a researcher’s expectations can influence a study’s results.
Placebo-controlled means that both groups of patients ingest something – either an active ingredient or a placebo. The placebo should have no physiological effect whatsoever. One powerful method of study involves cross-over groups, in which both groups ingest the same thing but with different time frames. After a wash-out period, the groups switch to ingest whatever was not ingested before. This allows researchers to isolate very specific variables, such as the effects of anthocyanins on cardiovascular health.
The best source of information on anthocyanins and cardiovascular disease is undoubtedly PubMed .
The first study I will review below is a systematic review of anthocyanin supplementation on cardiovascular risk factors which shows some significant results.
In the study titled: “Effects of Berry Anthocyanins on Cognitive Performance, Vascular Function and Cardiometabolic Risk Markers: A Systematic Review of Randomized Placebo-Controlled Intervention Studies in Humans,” published this June, researchers reviewed a total of 1197 articles and 49 studies reporting effects on cognitive performance, vascular function, and cardiometabolic risk markers. (1)
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. Flow-mediated dilatation is an index of endothelial function, meaning that it is an assessment of the elasticity of blood vessels, or simply put, the ability of blood vessels to expand.
A second study looking specifically at Aronia titled: “Effects of Aronia berry (poly)phenols on vascular function and gut microbiota: a double-blind randomized controlled trial in adult men” concluded that “consumption of aronia berry (poly)phenols improved endothelial function and modulated gut microbiota composition, indicating that regular aronia consumption has the potential to maintain cardiovascular health.” The study also included that the improvements in endothelial function or less hardening of the arteries could lead to a 24% lower risk of coronary heart disease, which is reportedly equivalent to 4.4 additional years of life without CHD events. (2)
There is no shortage today of products purporting all sorts of health benefits, but the evidence is often negligible or conflicting. Anthocyanin-rich fruits and vegetables are one area where evidence has been consistent.
(1) Ahles et al – 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; 22(12): 6482.
(2) Istas et al – Effects of aronia berry (poly)phenols on vascular function and gut microbiota: a double-blind randomized controlled trial in adult men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019 Aug 1;110(2):316-329.