• Katie Floyd

Could Anthocyanin-Rich Extracts Have Protective Effects Against Damaging Colitis?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the term Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) refers to disorders that involve chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. The two types of inflammatory bowel disease are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease (1). Both disorders involve chronic inflammation of the GI tract and prolonged inflammation results in damage to the affected areas (2).

In 2015, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation estimated that about 3.1 million Americans had received an IBD diagnosis. While IBD’s can be diagnosed at any age, it is typically diagnosed in adolescents and adults ages 15 to 35 (3). Studies have suggested there is a possible genetic component associated with an increased risk of developing an IBD. Between 1.5 and 28 percent of people with IBD have a close relative diagnosed with the disease (4). However, it is still not possible to predict who may or may not develop the disease based on family history alone.

There are treatments for IBD. Those treatments include anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressors, biologics, nutritional support, and sometimes surgery. Some treatments can be costly, and others are invasive, like in the case of surgery. Depending on the severity of IBD and efficacy of other treatment options, surgery might be necessary (1). In an effort to give IBD sufferers more treatment options, researchers continue exploring new ways to treat IBD with natural ingredients. One of those studies was published in the Journal of Medicinal Food (5).

The researchers studied the anti-inflammatory activity of an anthocyanin-rich extract in order to explore the protective effects of Cyanidin-3-glucoside (C3G) and its aglycone, cyanidin (Cy) on 2,4,6-trinitrobenzenesulfonic acid (TNBS)-induced colitis in mice. They also studied lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated Caco-2 cellular monolayer inflammation (5). The Caco-2 cell line is a continuous line of heterogeneous human epithelial colorectal adenocarcinoma cells and has been extensively used as a model of the intestinal epithelial barrier (7).

C3G is an anthocyanin found in plants, and Cy is the aglycone of C3G that can be generated in the intestine under gut microorganism metabolism, according to the study (5). Anthocyanins give plants, fruits, and vegetables their red, purple, and blue pigments (6). The anthocyanins found in fruits include blackcurrants, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and red grapes. Vegetables with anthocyanins include black carrot, purple corn, purple sweet potato, and red cabbage (6).

Although the bioavailability of anthocyanins was once thought to be low, research has shown its bioavailability is much higher than originally assumed. Particularly, the bioavailability of C3G (6). Anthocyanins have been used in nutraceutical and traditional medicine since many studies have explored their potential health benefits. The studies performed include cell culture studies, animal models, and human clinical trials, which show that “anthocyanidins and anthocyanins possess antioxidative and antimicrobial activities, improve visual and neurological health, and protect against various non-communicable diseases (6).” They have also been shown to have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (6).

Results from the current study showed that (5):

- Both C3G and Cy significantly improved the clinical symptoms and relieved the histological damage in TNBS-induced colitis in mice.

- The activity of myeloperoxidase and the excretion of inflammatory cytokines (tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin-1β, interleukin-6, and interferon-γ) were also significantly inhibited after given the 200 μmol/kg dose of extract.

- When LPS-stimulated Caco-2 cells were pretreated with C3G and Cy (in vitro), the destruction of the intestinal epithelial barrier was improved.

- Both C3G and Cy suppressed nitric oxide production and inflammatory cytokines secretion of LPS-induced Caco-2 cells.

- The anti-inflammatory activity of C3G and Cy was similar in both colitis mice and Caco-2 cells.

Based on the study results, the researchers ultimately concluded that C3G and Cy may exert anti-inflammatory effects by protecting the intestinal barrier and by suppressing inflammatory cytokine secretion, meaning both could be used as potentially preventive agents or supplementary medicines for inflammatory bowel disease.

Access the study here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31657664/


(1) Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). (2021). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/inflammatory-bowel-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20353315

(2) What is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)? (2021). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ibd/what-is-IBD.htm

(3) Crohn’s Disease: Facts, Statistics, and You. (September 24, 2018). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/crohns-disease/facts-statistics-infographic

(4) Overview of Crohn's Disease. (2021). Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/what-is-crohns-disease/overview

(5) Gan, Y., Fu, Y., Yang, L., Chen, J., Lei, H., & Liu, Q. (2020). Cyanidin-3-O-Glucoside and Cyanidin Protect Against Intestinal Barrier Damage and 2,4,6-Trinitrobenzenesulfonic Acid-Induced Colitis. Journal of medicinal food, 23(1), 90-99. http://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2019.4524

(6) Khoo, H. E., Azlan, A., Tang, S. T., & Lim, S. M. (2017). Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits. Food & nutrition research, 61(1), 1361779. https://doi.org/10.1080/16546628.2017.1361779

(7) Sambuy, Y., De Angelis, I., Ranaldi, G., Scarino, M. L., Stammati, A., & Zucco, F. (2005). The Caco-2 cell line as a model of the intestinal barrier: influence of cell and culture-related factors on Caco-2 cell functional characteristics. Cell biology and toxicology, 21(1), 1–26. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10565-005-0085-6

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