The flavonoids constitute the largest group of phenols and are responsible for the red, blue and purple colours and taste of many fruits and vegetables. More than 9000 flavonoid structures have been described, and these include more than 600 different anthocyanins that are widely distributed among at least 27 plant families, 73 genera and innumerable species. Around 5,000 of the flavonoids that have been studied so far have antioxidant activity.
Among the phenolic pigments, anthocyanins are the largest group and are found in red wine, some cereals, root vegetables and berries. Apart from their physiological role in plants, anthocyanins are regarded as important components in human nutrition. Numerous epidemiological studies have confirmed the influence of the consumption of antioxidants contained in fruits, vegetables and grains, and their potential health benefits in protecting cells from the damaging effects of oxidative stress, which is related to the onset and progression of numerous diseases, including cancer. Anthocyanins have been associated with substances that strengthen the capillaries, reinforce the action of vitamin C and favour the accumulation of this vitamin in the liver and in the suprarenal glands. Blackcurrant anthocyanins inhibit transient myopia, reduce eye fatigue, improve dark adaptation and enhance retinal blood low with glaucoma [https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/fstr/18/3/18_315/_pdf]. A high consumption of fruits or vegetables rich in antioxidants is also related to a decrease in cardiovascular diseases and cancer. By simply including in our diets a good amount of fruits and vegetables is reported to increase the blood levels of antioxidants [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27038533]. Other researches have shown several health-promoting benefits of anthocyanins, ranging from cytoprotective, antimicrobial and antitumor activities to neuroprotective, anti‐obesity and lipidomic potential.
As previously stated, anthocyanins can be obtained directly by eating fruit and vegetables. However, modern lifestyles do not always allow us to have access to those. Therefore, an alternative is to consume anthocyanins as dietary supplements in the form of capsules, for example.
Encapsulating anthocyanins is done by different methods, all of which have the end-goal to provide a concentration of anthocyanins that encompasses the minimum dietary requirements. Encapsulating substances for human and non-human animal consumption is a technique that was developed around 60 years ago and has progressively evolved in order to maximise the entrapment of a substance within another substance (a protective wall – the capsule). The technique also aims at protecting the encapsulated anthocyanins from degradation before they are consumed, and to increase their bioavailability (the time between when a substance is consumed and excreted from the body), which is considered remarkably low in its natural form (directly consumed from fruits and vegetables). Hence, encapsulated anthocyanins in the form of health supplements can increase the bioavailability of this substance in our bodies.
This post is based on the book chapter written by Julia Martín, Eugenia Marta Kuskoski, María José Navas and Agustín G. Asuero http://dx.doi.org/10.5772/67718