RELEVATE Nutrients


Key Food Groups: Berries, Wine/Red Grapes

Anthocyanins: Role in Brain Health

Anthocyanins are pigments that bring deep, vibrant colors to many fruits and vegetables. They are also a family of potent antioxidants that are shown to be anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective.1 Their anti-oxidative properties are both direct and indirect, by collecting and neutralizing neurotoxic molecules from neurons and by activating anti-oxidative enzymes.2 Studies also highlight anthocyanins’ important anti-inflammatory mechanisms, where they quell the production and activity of several key inflammatory molecules when faced with neuroinflammatory conditions.3

Each anthocyanin is built on a core molecule called an anthocyanidin (notice the “idin” at the end). Two important anthocyanidins are cyanidin and malvidin. Distinct anthocyanins, such as those with malvidin, exhibit another neuroprotective property: they are experimentally shown to substantially reduce the burden and negative effects from amyloid plaques. This refers to the “plaques” in “protein plaques and tangles”, that are the hallmark of brains with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.4,5

Intake Deficiency and Relevance

The vast proportion of Americans are not consuming needed amounts of fruits and vegetables and are therefore missing out on the neuroprotective features of anthocyanins. Almost 87% of American do not meet the USDA Dietary Guidelines for fruit intake.6 Malvidin anthocyanins deserve specific attention, as they are abundantly found in blueberries and wine (red grapes). The importance of this stems from renowned nutritional researcher Dr. Martha Morris, who included these foods as a key part of the MIND diet she developed, which are strongly linked to improved cognitive outcomes and decreased incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.7 Malvidin anthocyanins are also shown to concentrate in the brain more than any other anthocyanin,8 though all anthocyanins have demonstrated being able to cross the blood-brain-barrier to some extent.2

For wine aficionados, numerous studies link diets with regular wine consumption (in moderation, typically with meals), and hence rich in anthocyanins, to improved cognitive function, reduced dementia risk, and reduced Alzheimer’s disease risk – part of a phenomenon people call the “French Paradox.” Combining intakes from several data sources and taking into account both berry and wine consumption, we estimate that American intake of anthocyanins could be only 25-50% of our peers in Europe, a significant comparative deficit.9,10

RELEVATE’s Form of Anthocyanin

We have chosen to include anthocyanin-rich extracts in two places of our product: the softgel shell and the capsules. The deep violet color of anthocyanins from California grapes inspired us to infuse them into the shells of our softgels, and we include a concentrated anthocyanin extract from European blueberries in our capsules. The anthocyanins in our capsules were selected to have particular richness in malvidin and cyanidin – necessary to achieve a profile similar to brain-relevant blueberries and wine/red grapes.

Concluding Thoughts to Consider

Anthocyanins are an exciting and fast-moving field in age-related cognitive research, built on initial groundbreaking work in strawberry and blueberry intakes.11 As mentioned, anthocyanins give berries their deep, rich red, blue, and violet pigments and are not only a great source of natural food coloring, but also have the added benefit of being neuroprotective. Clinical studies have associated improved cognitive function with high intake of anthocyanins, represented through cherries, blackcurrants, and blueberries.12,13 Anthocyanins rich in red wine14 and also rich in blueberries,15 have also shown significant neuroprotective potential.16

There are synergies also. Numerous studies support synergistic effects of anthocyanins like malvidin with other flavonoids, like catechins (abundant in green tea), and report higher antioxidant potential in combination.2 Thus, we surmise that anthocyanins in combination with each other and with other flavonoids found in RELEVATE could present a potent antioxidant effect.17,18


Cited Research

  1. Olivas-Aguirre, F. J. et al. Cyanidin-3-O-glucoside: Physical-chemistry, foodomics and health effects. Molecules 21, (2016).
  2. Pojer, E., Mattivi, F., Johnson, D. & Stockley, C. S. The Case for Anthocyanin Consumption to Promote Human Health: A Review. Compr. Rev. Food Sci. Food Saf. 12, 483–508 (2013).
  3. Carvalho, F. B. et al. Anthocyanins control neuroinflammation and consequent memory dysfunction in mice exposed to lipopolysaccharide. Mol. Neurobiol. 54, 3350–3367 (2017).
  4. Thummayot, S., Tocharus, C., Suksamrarn, A. & Tocharus, J. Neuroprotective effects of cyanidin against Aβ-induced oxidative and ER stress in SK-N-SH cells. Neurochem. Int. 101, 15–21 (2016).
  5. Wang, Y. J. et al. Consumption of grape seed extract prevents amyloid-β deposition and attenuates inflammation in brain of an alzheimer’s disease mouse. Neurotox. Res. 15, 3–14 (2009).
  6. Moore, L. V & Thompson, F. E. Adults Meeting Fruit and Vegetable Intake Recommendations – United States, 2013. MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report 64, (U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 2015).
  7. Morris, M. C. et al. MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimer’s Dement. 11, 1015–1022 (2015).
  8. Passamonti, S., Vrhovsek, U., Vanzo, A. & Mattivi, F. Fast Access of Some Grape Pigments to the Brain. J. Agric. Food Chem. 53, 7029–7034 (2005).
  9. Burton-Freeman, B. M., Guenther, P. M., Oh, M., Stuart, D. & Jensen, H. H. Assessing the consumption of berries and associated factors in the United States using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2007–2012. Food Funct. 9, 1009–1016 (2018).
  10. Sobekova, K., Thomsen, M. R. & Ahrendsen, B. L. Market trends and consumer demand for fresh berries. APSTRACT Appl. Stud. Agribus. Commer. 07, 11–14 (2013).
  11. Devore, E. E., Kang, J. H., Breteler, M. M. B. & Grodstein, F. Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Ann. Neurol. 72, 135–143 (2012).
  12. Joo, S. H. et al. Exploration of the Oryza sativa l. Cyanidin-3-glucoside on the cognitive function in older adults with subjective memory impairment. Psychiatry Investig. 16, 759–765 (2019).
  13. Kent, K. et al. Consumption of anthocyanin-rich cherry juice for 12 weeks improves memory and cognition in older adults with mild-to-moderate dementia. Eur. J. Nutr. 56, 333–341 (2017).
  14. Basli, A. et al. Wine polyphenols: potential agents in neuroprotection. Oxid. Med. Cell. Longev. 2012, 805762 (2012).
  15. Haytowitz, D. B., Wu, X. & Bhagwat, S. USDA Database for the Flavonoid Content of Selected Foods Release 3.3 Prepared by. (2018).
  16. Letenneur, L. Risk of Dementia and Alcohol and Wine Consumption: a Review of Recent Results. Biological Research 37, 189–193 (2004).
  17. Krikorian, R., Nash, T. A., Shidler, M. D., Shukitt-Hale, B. & Joseph, J. A. Concord grape juice supplementation improves memory function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. Br. J. Nutr. 103, 730–734 (2010).
  18. Rendeiro, C., Rhodes, J. S. & Spencer, J. P. E. The mechanisms of action of flavonoids in the brain: Direct versus indirect effects. Neurochem. Int. 89, 126–139 (2015).