By Rachel Kimble BSc (Hons), MSc.
6 minute read.
The headline of this blog post, well-known amongst scientists and nutritionists, refers to the idea that although the genes you were born with are fixed, they do not necessarily control how you will live your life. Through medical advances, better nutrition and improved environments, people around the world are living for longer. The flip side of this good news is that, as a result, more people are living with chronic diseases, or dying from them. The three leading causes of death in the UK and USA are cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and cancer. And when it comes to these diseases there are some risk factors which may make you more likely to develop them, such as your age and genetics.
What exactly is lifestyle?
What you do, what you eat and how you interact with the world are all factors that make up your personal lifestyle. A poor lifestyle, including such obvious culprits as an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, can increase the risk of chronic disease. Simply improving basic aspects of your lifestyle can reduce the risk and progression of these diseases. And in particular diet might play an integral part in this. In fact, a large scale global study recently showed that low intake of fruit was a leading dietary risk factor for death and disability from chronic diseases in many countries . But eating more fruits is such an easy fix, especially now that we have access to them in so many forms (e.g. fresh, dried, frozen and powdered). While we always recommend eating ‘a rainbow’ of fruit and vegetables, as this is the best way to ensure getting a variety of nutrients in the diet, lets focus on one often ignored colour… Purple.
The power of purple
Red, blue and purple fruits and vegetables contain anthocyanins – a subgroup of compounds called polyphenols which are found in plants and may have many health benefits. Some polyphenols, including anthocyanins, have been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions and these may help protect the cells in your body from damage that can lead to illness and disease. In support of this, meta-analysis studies, in which all existing data is combined, have suggested that a higher intake of anthocyanins can reduce risk of cardiovascular disease death , prevent type II diabetes  and some cancers . In clinical studies trying to understand the reason why, anthocyanin-rich purple foods have been shown to reduce blood pressure , improve cholesterol  and help with blood glucose , which could all favourably decrease the chances of developing these diseases.
Your future health
Current research suggests 50mg a day of anthocyanins may help prevent chronic diseases . It is important to acknowledge that research is in early stages and ongoing, but the results so far show a lot of promise. Research is ongoing to determine which anthocyanins may be most beneficial. For example, anthocyanins responsible for red fruit and vegetables are easier to find throughout the year and help you to maintain ‘eating the rainbow’. Nutrient-dense purple fruit and vegetables are, however, harder to find through the winter season. Haskap berries are one of the highest sources of anthocyanins on the planet, which makes Haskapa one of the easiest and most delicious ways to enjoy the potential benefits of purple anthocyanins.
- Afshin, A., et al., Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. The Lancet, 2019. 393(10184): p. 1958-1972.
- Kimble, R., et al., Dietary intake of anthocyanins and risk of cardiovascular disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 2019. 59(18): p. 3032-3043.
- Guo, X., et al., Associations of dietary intakes of anthocyanins and berry fruits with risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. European journal of clinical nutrition, 2016. 70(12): p. 1360-1367.
- Grosso, G., et al., A comprehensive meta‐analysis on dietary flavonoid and lignan intake and cancer risk: Level of evidence and limitations. Molecular nutrition & food research, 2017. 61(4): p. 1600930.
- Bell, L. and C.M. Williams, A pilot dose–response study of the acute effects of haskap berry extract (Lonicera caerulea L.) on cognition, mood, and blood pressure in older adults. European journal of nutrition, 2019. 58(8): p. 3325-3334.
- Toscano, L.T., et al., Phenolics from purple grape juice increase serum antioxidant status and improve lipid profile and blood pressure in healthy adults under intense physical training. Journal of Functional Foods, 2017. 33: p. 419-424.
- Jokioja, J., et al., Anthocyanin-rich extract from purple potatoes decreases postprandial glycemic response and affects inflammation markers in healthy men. Food chemistry, 2020. 310: p. 125797.
- Kalt, W., et al., Recent research on the health benefits of blueberries and their anthocyanins. Advances in Nutrition, 2020. 11(2): p. 224-236.