Compounds that color fruits and veggies may
protect against colon cancer
Understanding the molecular structures of compounds that give certain fruits and vegetables their
rich colors may help researchers find even more powerful cancer fighters, a new study suggests.
Evidence from laboratory experiments on rats and on human colon cancer cells also suggests that
anthocyanins, the compounds that give color to most red, purple and blue fruits and vegetables appreciably
slow the growth of colon cancer cells.
The findings also bring scientists a step closer to figuring out what exactly gives fruits and vegetables their
“These foods contain many compounds, and we're just starting to figure out what they are and which ones
provide the best health benefits,” said Monica Giusti, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor
of food science at Ohio State University.
Giusti presented the findings, which represent the collaborative efforts of Giusti and her colleagues, on
August 19 at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston.
Giusti and her colleagues found that in some cases, slight alterations to the structure of anthocyanin
molecules made these compounds more potent anti-cancer agents.
In their studies on human colon cancer cells grown in laboratory dishes, the researchers tested the
anti-cancer effects of anthocyanin-rich extracts from a variety of fruits and vegetables. They retrieved these
anthocyanins from some relatively exotic fruits and other plants, including grapes, radishes, purple corn,
chokeberries, bilberries, purple carrots and elderberries.
The plants were chosen due to their extremely deep colors, and therefore high anthocyanin content. Some
of these plants are also used as a source of food coloring.
The researchers determined the amount of extract needed from each plant to cut the growth of human colon
cancer cells in half. Altering pigment structures slightly by adding an extra sugar or acid molecule changed
the biological activity of t