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Anthocyanins and Weight Loss


Found in many black, blue and purple berries and vegetables, anthocyanins are naturally occurring flavonoid pigments that have been associated with a number of potential health benefits. They have also been extensively studied as a potential weight loss aid, with promising results. In fact, a paper published in Reviews in Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders in 2015 concluded that many in vitro and in vivo studies reveal an array of mechanisms through which anthocyanins could prevent or reverse obesity and related pathologies. Below, we take a look at some of the studies that have analyzed the potential weight loss benefits of anthocyanins.

Studies Supporting the Weight Loss Benefits of Anthocyanins

Aronia berries, also known as black chokeberries, are small dark berries that get their color from – you guessed it – anthocyanins. In a study published in The FASEB Journal in 2013, mice that were fed a low-fat diet, supplemented with aronia berry juice concentrate, had lower body weights and less epididymal fat than mice that were fed a low-fat diet without the juice concentrate. The researchers concluded that aronia berry juice concentrate has the potential to reduce body fat under normal dietary conditions, but that further research is needed to determine the exact mechanisms of action. This study was funded by the Arkansas Biosciences Institute.

In another study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, feeding mice a simple high fat diet resulted in a marked increase in the size of the animals' fat cells; however, this effect was not observed in mice that were fed a high fat diet supplemented with anthocyanins extracted from purple corn. What's more, the high fat diet was found to induce hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia and hyperleptinemia, but addition of purple corn anthocyanins to the diet reversed these effects. The researchers concluded that their findings provide a biochemical and nutritional basis for the use of anthocyanins in the prevention of obesity and diabetes.

Also the anthocyanin-rich Queen Garnet plum from Australia has been studied as a potential weight loss aid. Led by Professor Lindsay Brown from the University of Southern Queensland, a team of researchers discovered that purple plum juice made from Queen Garnet plums reversed obesity-related problems in rats that were fed a high-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. According to an article published by the University of Southern Queensland, the Queen Garnet plum has up to five times the levels of anthocyanins present in regular plums.

In yet another study, published in the August 2015 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Food Science and Biotechnology, a group of scientists from Sweet Potato Research Institute in China treated eight-week old obese rats with purple sweet potato anthocyanins. The researchers found that the rats that were treated with purple sweet potato anthocyanins lost more weight than the rats in the control group. Further investigation revealed that these positive effects were linked to the ability of the sweet potato anthocyanins to mediate the effects of leptin and to reduce oxidative stress.

More Research is Needed

While the results of the above-described studies on anthocyanins and weight loss are promising, it is important to keep in mind that they were conducted in laboratory animals and not in humans. Additional studies are needed to investigate the potential weight loss benefits of anthocyanin supplements and anthocyanin-rich diets in humans.

Furthermore, you should be aware that not all animal studies that have examined the effects of anthocyanins on body weight have been as convincing as the studies we looked at above. Studies using blueberry anthocyanins, in particular, have yielded mixed results. In a study published in the Journal of Agriculture & Food Chemistry, for example, mice that were fed a high fat diet supplemented with purified anthocyanins gained less body weight and fat than mice that were fed a high fat diet without the anthocyanins. Interestingly, however, administration of whole blueberries did not prevent weight gain caused by the high fat diet.

One potential explanation why whole blueberries failed to prevent the weight gain caused by the high fat diet could be that the berries simply did not contain enough anthocyanins to counteract the weight gain promoting effects of the added sugar and carbohydrates the whole berries provided. While blueberries contain a good amount of anthocyanins, they contain nowhere near as much of these beneficial flavonoids as elderberries or aronia berries, for example.

How to Up Your Anthocyanin Intake

Blueberries may be one of the most famous natural sources of anthocyanins, but they are by no means the best source of these potentially weight loss promoting flavonoids. According to a study published in the Chilean Journal of Agricultural Research, elderberries, for example, provide many times more anthocyanins than blueberries. Dried elderberries are available at many health food stores, as well as online. If you are a fan of the online retailer Amazon, check out the selection of dried elderberries on

Another excellent source of anthocyanins is the maqui berry, which is grown in South America and sold as superfood powder in the United States and Europe. In fact, according to the Chilean study, maqui berries contain even more anthocyanins than elderberries! If you want to give this South American powerhouse berry a try, head to your local health food store, or check out the maqui berry powders on

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