Anthocyanins are the compounds that give dark fruits (blueberries, red currants, brambles, blood oranges, red grapes) their pigmentation. They are also present in vegetables such red cabbage, red beets, purple corn, and eggplant peels. And now they are also present in sweet potaoes – the purple kind, that is. The purple sweet potato has been specially bred by researchers at Kansas Stte University. But for what purpose? For the prevention of cancer.
Anthocyanins are anti-oxidants and are believed to have health benefits and medicinal value for a wide range of ailments, from cardiovascular disease to cancer. Because they are present in high abundance in nature and in the food stuff we eat everyday, they have become one of the most popular research topics of nutritionists and epidemiologists.
The purple sweet potatoes are really purple inside as well as outside, and well, have significantly higher concentrations fo anthocyanins than ordinary sweet potatoes you normally find in the supermarmet. Especially dominant were two anthyocynin pigment derivatives cyanidin and peonidin. Aside from these two, the potaoes have also much higher total phenolic content. Phenols are also strong anti-oxidants and were reported to have some anti-aging properties.
So here are the advantages of this new “dark” breed of sweet potatoes:
- Higher anti-oxidant capacity
- Potential anti-aging properties
- High anti-cancer components
To test for anti-cancer properties, the researchers treated cultures of human colon cancer cells with cyanidin and peonidin. The results showed “significant cell growth inhibition for the cancer cells, but there were no significant changes in the cell cycle.”
This research is just one of the many that is trying to breed fruit and vegetables that contain more than the usual anthocyanin content. Some of the breeding are done the traditional way whereas others are done using genetic engineering. Plants that are easy to grown, eaten in large quantities, and are usually available the whole year round are especially targetted, such as tomotoes, and yes – sweet potatoes.
Other plants that are rich in anthocyanins are (source: wikipedia)
|Food source||Anthocyanin content in mg per 100 g|
Photo credit: Kansas State University