Red Pigments Could Protect Your Cardiovascular Health

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally. Surprisingly though, most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented by addressing lifestyle habits such as smoking, alcohol uses, diet and levels of physical activity. With regards to diet, fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains are touted as the best dietary defense against heart disease, due to their nutrient-dense properties. In fact, a recent systematic review has found that a certain pigment found in specific fruits and vegetables can help in lowering the risk of heart disease.

The study

Researchers from Northumbria University in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, United Kingdom attempted to analyze the benefits of the flavonoid anthocyanins. This natural pigment provides fruits and vegetables with their reddish, purple-bluish appearance. This pigment can be found in:

  • acai berries,
  • blackberries,
  • raspberries,
  • blueberries,
  • eggplants and;
  • red cabbage

The researchers collected data 19 different studies, which involved more than 602,000 individuals, from the United States, Europe and Australia. The participants were followed for a period of 4 to 41 years. Once the data was collected, the researchers attempted to find a link between dietary intake of anthocyanin with the frequency of heart disease-related incidences like stroke and heart attacks.

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Our analysis is the largest, most comprehensive evaluation of the association between dietary anthocyanin intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease,” said review co-author Prof. Glyn Howatson, from Northumbria University.

The results

The review revealed a correlation between a higher dietary intake of anthocyanins and a lower lower risk of heart disease and heart disease-related death. Specifically, those who consumed high levels of anthocyanin had a 9% reduced risk of  developing heart disease and an 8% reduced risk of  heart disease-related death as compared to those who had lower levels of anthocyanin in their diets.

Evidence has been growing in recent years to suggest that these natural plant compounds might be especially valuable for promoting cardiovascular health,” said Howatson of the review results.

Read more about the review here.

The verdict on red pigments for cardiovascular health

While the review only sets to further emphasize the necessity of consuming fruits and vegetables, it’s important to note that the results may not apply across populations. When researchers  looked at different locations during the course of the review, they noticed that the risk was only significant for groups based in the United States. This suggests that cardiovascular health can only benefit from anthocyanins due to the dietary habits of the North American population. Moreover, the review was financially supported by a nonprofit organization funded by U.S.-based tart cherry growers and processors – the Cherry Marketing Institute.

Nonetheless, while the jury may still be out on if anthocyanin can protect against heart disease, other flavonoids come with an abundance of health benefits. Read more about them here.