Berries get their color from anthocyanins, pigments that lend the fruits red, blue or purple color. Years of research has shown that these agents offer anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and antioxidant benefits, as well as anti-cancer properties. New research published in the University of Eastern Finland suggests that anthocyanins may also act on a specific enzyme that regulates cancer gene expression.
The particular pigment of interest is which is found in blueberry, bilberry, blackcurrant and lingonberry. Cyanidin appears to reduce cancer gene expression by increasing the activity of sirtuin 6 enzyme (SIRT6), which is associated with cancer cell development and growth, as well as glucose metabolism. The function of SIRT6 declines with age and contributes to the development of certain cancers.
According to the study authors, cyanidin increased SIRT6 levels in human colorectal cancer cells. At the same time, the pigment increased expression of FoXO3, a tumor-suppressing gene that triggers apoptosis (programmed cell death).
Aside from learning yet another good reason to load up on these berries, the researchers are hopeful that these findings will lead to the development of new cancer treatment drugs that regulate SIRT6 function.
Rahnasto-Rilla M, Tyni J, Huovinen M, Jarho E, Kulikowicz T, Ravichandran S, A Bohr V, Ferrucci L, Lahtela-Kakkonen M, Moaddel R. Natural polyphenols as sirtuin 6 modulators. Sci Rep. 2018 Mar 7;8(1):4163. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-22388-5.