Purple Foods (Red + Blue = Purple)

radish-freshPart of the mouth-watering experience of eating is what appeals to your color perception. Unless visually impaired, we see our food before we taste it. Aroma may precede that. What we anticipate enhances what we taste. The more colors there are on the plate, the more nutritious the tasting. Beyond the humdrum nature of tan, ecru, and washed-out pale, there is an array of colors that can arouse a more than casual interest in eating: blue, red, and purple.

The compounds that give fruits and vegetables their characteristic colors actually serve to improve the health of humans. Although artificial colors have their due place in new carpets and upholstery, they deserve no place in our foods, where they serve only to exacerbate existing health concerns and give rise to new ones, as in excitatory and unfocused behaviors. A press release on 15 August, 2011 by Ohio State University announced that anthocyanins, chemicals that offer red, blue and purple color to foods, are capable of inhibiting the growth of cancer cells while keeping healthy cells intact. Lead author of the study, Dr. Monica Giusti, commented, “These foods contain many compounds, and we’re just starting to figure out what they are and which ones provide the best health benefits.” In the tests, grapes, radishes, purple corn and purple carrots, bilberries and several other anthocyanin-rich fruits and vegetables were featured. Giusti added, “All fruits and vegetables that are rich in anthocyanins have compounds that can slow down the growth of colon cancer cells, whether in experiments in laboratory dishes or inside the body.” A welcome addition to her remarks is, “It is possible to use natural, anthocyanin-based food colorants instead of synthetic dyes…” (OSU Press Release. 8/15/2011:

Good news needs to be spread, not restricted to the scientifically elite.  Some plants high in anthocyanins are also rich in the tannins that produce the gustatory sensation similar to the pucker afforded by a bitter cup of tea.  You might have noticed that purplish lettuces are bitterer than the pale ones.

Anthocyanins extracted from black chokeberries were used by scientists at the U of MD to study effects on normal and cancerous colon cells, finding that growth of the cancerous cells was inhibited by a factor of 60% when exposed to the extract.  (Malik. 2003)  Anthocyanin-rich extracts (ARE) were examined by a group from Ohio State in 2008, where findings indicated that purple corn, bilberries, purple carrots, grapes, radishes, and elderberries had similar impact on the same colorectal cancer line, where the ARE’s not only provided chemoprotection, but also demonstrated an additive interaction with the other phenolics present.  Purple corn was at the top of the list.  (Jing. 2008)

The antioxidant potency of anthocyanins was comparatively uncertain prior to 2001, when studies in the United Kingdom looked at their ability to donate electrons, the sign of antioxidant character.  Even in the absence of the fat-soluble antioxidant, vitamin E, AREs were able to repair oxidative damage done to laboratory animals made susceptible to such damage by antioxidant-deficient diets that were especially low in that specific vitamin.  (Ramirez-Tortosa. 2001)  An ARE used in these tests came from violets, which are edible flowers.

One of the favorite purples is grapes, both the fruit and the juice.  Purple grape juice acts as a liver-protective agent because of its anthocyanin content, although it is accompanied by other active flavonoids and phenolics that may yield an appreciated synergy.  Greater antioxidant potential was exhibited in test subjects exposed to organic grape juice than to conventionally-grown juice, as demonstrated by enhanced enzyme activity and reduced lipid peroxidation, but both juices did the job.  (Dani. 2008)  Applied to cardiovascular disease, purple grape juice protects against the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol whose oxidation into foam cells is a factor in arterial blockage.  This suggests that grape juice—and red wine—are cardioprotective against atherosclerosis.  (Folts. 2005)  (Stein. 1999)  The antiplatelet and antioxidant benefits, and improved endothelial function, are consistently seen with routine grape juice consumption.

Purple barley and eggplant evince similar protective properties.  The bran fraction of purple barley has a significantly higher antioxidant activity than its paler cousins, by as much as six times.  (Bellido. 2009)  Eggplants, exceptionally rich in an anthocyanin called nasunin, protect us from lipid peroxidation (especially helpful to the brain).  (Noda. 1998)  Nasunin transcends the ordinary antioxidant by chelating iron molecules and inhibiting the production of free radicals.  A bonus is that it also stops tumors from making new blood vessels, thereby starving them.  (Matsubara. 2005)  Purple sweet potatoes have a more powerful antioxidant character than ascorbic acid, which is known better as vitamin C, as demonstrated by depressing the malevolent effects of chemical insults upon the liver.  (Kano. 2005)  Even the mundane plum has anthocyanin phenolic properties that rival vitamin C.  (Chun. 2003)

Maybe a purple fruit or vegetable merits its own TV show.

References    PRESS RELEASE
Compounds that Color Fruits and Veggies May Protect Against Colon Cancer
Released: 8/15/2007 12:25 PM EDT
Embargo expired: 8/19/2007 8:00 AM EDT
Source: Ohio State University
‘Anthocyanins for Color, Health’: Talk by OSU Food Scientist Friday (2/18)
Feb 17, 2011

Malik M, Zhao C, Schoene N, Guisti MM, Moyer MP, Magnuson BA.
Anthocyanin-rich extract from Aronia meloncarpa E induces a cell cycle block in colon cancer but not normal colonic cells.
Nutr Cancer. 2003;46(2):186-96.

Jing P, Bomser JA, Schwartz SJ, He J, Magnuson BA, Giusti MM.
Structure-function relationships of anthocyanins from various anthocyanin-rich extracts on the inhibition of colon cancer cell growth.
J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Oct 22;56(20):9391-8.

Ramirez-Tortosa C, Andersen ØM, Gardner PT, Morrice PC, Wood SG, Duthie SJ, Collins AR, Duthie G G
Anthocyanin-rich extract decreases indices of lipid peroxidation and DNA damage in vitamin E-depleted rats.
Free Radic Biol Med. 2001 Nov 1;31(9):1033-7.

Dani C, Oliboni LS, Pasquali MA, Oliveira MR, Umezu FM, Salvador M, Moreira JC, Henriques JA.
Intake of purple grape juice as a hepatoprotective agent in Wistar rats.
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Folts JD.
Potential health benefits from the flavonoids in grape products on vascular disease.
Adv Exp Med Biol. 2002;505:95-111

Stein JH, Keevil JG, Wiebe DA, Aeschlimann S, Folts JD.
Purple grape juice improves endothelial function and reduces the susceptibility of LDL cholesterol to oxidation in patients with coronary artery disease.
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Bellido GG, Beta T.
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Noda Y, Kaneyuki T, Igarashi K, Mori A, Packer L.
Antioxidant activity of nasunin, an anthocyanin in eggplant.
Res Commun Mol Pathol Pharmacol. 1998 Nov;102(2):175-87.

Matsubara K, Kaneyuki T, Miyake T, Mori M.
Antiangiogenic activity of nasunin, an antioxidant anthocyanin, in eggplant peels
J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Aug 10;53(16):6272-5.

Kano M, Takayanagi T, Harada K, Makino K, Ishikawa F.
Antioxidative activity of anthocyanins from purple sweet potato, Ipomoera batatas cultivar Ayamurasaki.
Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2005 May;69(5):979-88.

Chun OK, Kim DO, Moon HY, Kang HG, Lee CY.
Contribution of individual polyphenolics to total antioxidant capacity of plums.
J Agric Food Chem. 2003 Dec 3;51(25):7240-5.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Colorful Foods—Black

fresh-black-currantIf a plant had cognitions, whereby it could think and perceive, it almost assuredly would pay attention to the environmental and predatory insults that bombard it regularly, never thinking that the chemicals it makes to protect itself could likewise benefit its animated aggressors. Plants defend themselves against oxidation, pests, and harmful ultra-violet radiation by making substances that people and animals can borrow to fend off sickness and disease, and to change the way the body reacts to the insults it might receive from bacteria, viruses, and renegade cell division.

“Black foods may be richer in antioxidants than their paler counterparts,” says the September, 2011 edition of Environmental Nutrition.  A class of flavonoids called anthocyanins colors dark foods, including black beans, black carrots, black rice, black quinoa, and a few others.  “Anthocyanins act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, fending off the development of chronic diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer,” notes the writer. (Ask EN. Sept. 2011—subscription required)

Few people associate the color black with food, forgetting about blackberries, black currants, and black tea.  Whether these and other foods are really black might be debatable, but science says these foods are rich in substances that offer a host of health benefits.  Black rice, for example, is more purplish than black, but when uncooked looks black.  It’s been highly treasured in Asia for centuries, where it’s been honored for the prevention of cancers, diabetes heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.  (Guo. 2007)  (Ling. 2001)  High in nutritional value, black rice has substantial iron and fiber.

The anthocyanin pigments found in all the black foods have demonstrated the capacity to delay the onset of illness by suppressing the activity of chemicals that promote chronic inflammation and disease, most notably one called nuclear factor-kappa B.  (Karlsen. 2007)  There is speculation that anthocyanins do not remain intact once inside the body since they may be treated as alien compounds, but that they do their work by initiating multiple other mechanisms, such as cell signaling, increases in uric acid, and precise gene expression, particularly in matters of cancer and heart disease. (Wrolstad. 2001)   (Stauth. 2007)

Superior protein and amino acid balance, and high levels of calcium, phosphorus, iron, most B vitamins, zinc and lysine characterize black quinoa, a grain reputed as a high-endurance food from the Andes.  It’s possible that quinoa provides more essential nutrients than any other single food.  (Ruales. 1992)  Black beans have been shown to provide nutritional support to the digestive system, especially the colon.  It appears to be the ideal mix of substances for allowing colonic bacteria to produce butyric acid, the fuel for many beneficial bacterial activities, lowering the risk for colon cancer among them.  (Hangen. 2002)  Black lentils and black soybeans are other legumes with remarkable health benefits.  Because legumes lack the amino acid methionine, it’s a good idea to combine them with a grain, which lacks lysine, to get all the essential amino acids.  Soybeans are the exception, since they have a complete amino acid profile, as does the grain, quinoa.  Black soy promotes apoptosis in prostate hyperplasia and certain gastric cancer cells, and reduces prostate weight.  (Jang. 2010) (Zou. 2011)

There are more black foods than we have the means to address here, but we can’t omit the berries.  Overwhelming evidence suggest that berries, in general, have beneficial effects against several types of human cancers.  While we know about the anthocyanins, there may be unidentified compounds that have, or initiate, activities that fight cancer.  They work by counteracting and repairing damage resulting from oxidative stress and inflammation, and are able to regulate carcinogenic and xenobiotic pathways.  Being able to sensitize tumors to chemotherapy, blackberries enhance such therapy.  (Seeram. 2008)

The shade of black upon a shiny white plate is a dramatic presentation, but what it portends for the body is even more so.  For foods that can be frozen or otherwise stored when out of season, it’ll pay to stock up when you can.


Dramatic Nutrition in Black Foods
Chefs know that the deep, glossy shade of say black quinoa or black rice can do wonders for the visual appeal of a meal. But are there any nutritional rewards that come along with this elegant color palette? It seems like brightly colored fruits and vegetables, such as scarlet tomatoes and verdant spinach get all of the attention in the nutrition world. But you might be surprised to find out that the color black is a calling card for a plant’s health-protective nutrient load.

Guo H, Ling W, Wang Q, Liu C, Hu Y, Xia M, Feng X, Xia X
Effect of anthocyanin-rich extract from black rice (Oryza sativa L. indica) on hyperlipidemia and insulin resistance in fructose-fed rats.
Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2007 Mar;62(1):1-6.

Ling WH, Cheng QX, Ma J, Wang T.
Red and black rice decrease atherosclerotic plaque formation and increase antioxidant status in rabbits.
J Nutr. 2001 May;131(5):1421-6.

Karlsen A, Retterstøl L, Laake P, Paur I, Kjølsrud-Bøhn S, Sandvik L, Blomhoff R.
Anthocyanins inhibit nuclear factor-kappaB activation in monocytes and reduce plasma concentrations of pro-inflammatory mediators in healthy adults.
J Nutr. 2007 Aug;137(8):1951-4.

Ronald E. Wrolstad, Ph.D.
The Possible Health Benefits of Anthocyanin Pigments and Polyphenolics  May 2001

David Stauth
Studies force new view on biology of flavonoids
Public release date: 5-Mar-2007

Ruales J, Nair B
Nutritional quality of the protein in quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa, Willd) seeds.
Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 1992 Jan;42(1):1-11.

Hangen L, Bennink MR
Consumption of black beans and navy beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) reduced azoxymethane-induced colon cancer in rats.
Nutr Cancer. 2002;44(1):60-5.

Jang H, Ha US, Kim SJ, Yoon BI, Han DS, Yuk SM, Kim SW.
Anthocyanin extracted from black soybean reduces prostate weight and promotes apoptosis in the prostatic hyperplasia-induced rat model.
J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Dec 22;58(24):12686-91.

Zou Y, Chang SK.
Effect of black soybean extract on the suppression of the proliferation of human AGS gastric cancer cells via the induction of apoptosis.
J Agric Food Chem. 2011 May 11;59(9):4597-605.

Seeram NP.
Berry fruits for cancer prevention: current status and future prospects.
J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Feb 13;56(3):630-5.

Navindra P. Seeram
Berry Fruits: Compositional Elements, Biochemical Activities, and the Impact of Their Intake on Human Health, Performance, and Disease
J. Agric. Food Chem., 2008, 56 (3), pp 627–629

Wada L, Ou B.
Antioxidant activity and phenolic content of Oregon caneberries.
J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Jun 5;50(12):3495-500.

Thomasset S, Teller N, Cai H, Marko D, Berry DP, Steward WP, Gescher AJ.
Do anthocyanins and anthocyanidins, cancer chemopreventive pigments in the diet, merit development as potential drugs?
Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2009 Jun;64(1):201-11.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Food Coloring And Behavior

food-coloringListen to a lie long enough and you’ll start to accept it as the truth. Didn’t the tobacco industry use images of physicians and athletes to sell cigarettes back in the last century? Babe Ruth hawked White Owl cigars and Raleigh cigarettes. William Bendix sold Chesterfield. The highly-trusted and unquestionably credible FDA had a meeting last March to discuss the properties of artificial food colorings and evaluate their relationship to hyperactivity in children. Based on their review of the published data, “FDA concludes that a causal relationship between exposure to color additives and hyperactivity in children in the general population has not been established.” For certain susceptible children, however, they admit their condition “may be exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to, synthetic color additives.”

The toxicity potential of synthetic food additives is hard to pin down. Just because a single substance demonstrates no harmful effects doesn’t explain what happens when it’s combined with another “harmless” substance.  Many foods contain more than one colorant. An example of single-substance safety is ammonia. Used with adequate ventilation it’s a relatively harmless cleaner unless abused.  The same for chlorine bleach.  But mix the two and you get a toxic gas, hydrazine, used to make rocket fuel.  That’ll clean the scum off the shower walls!   With the amount of adverse publicity about artificial colorings, you’d think the makers would look for something more natural, like beets.

Companies use artificial colors to make their products look pretty.  Foods with vibrant, saturated colors are more appealing than those without.  Hot dogs are naturally gray.  When’s the last time you saw one?  The color of a food tells us that it has value.  Red apples are more valued than green ones.  The natural medicines in foods are colorful.  Beta-carotene is associated with yellow and orange; anthocyanins with red and purple.  Even purple cabbage has its fans.  Some oranges don’t turn that color unless growing conditions are perfect: cool nights, warm days.  Many folks won’t buy green oranges from Florida, so what’s the broker to do?  Spray ‘em orange.  Now the mind is fooled into thinking this orange is healthier than the blotchy one next to it.

Most studies on food additives last for too short a time to render meaningful results.  A comet assay is a sensitive but uncomplicated testing procedure that detects DNA damage at the level of the cell.  Using this procedure, scientists at Japan’s Laboratory of Genotoxicity at Hachinohe National College found that, of the types of food additives, dyes are most genotoxic.  Dose-related DNA damage from commonly-used food dyes was found in the stomach, colon, and bladder of test animals, with colon damage appearing at doses close to the acceptable daily intake.  (Sasaki. 2002) (Tsuda. 2001)

Coal tar and petrochemicals are the main sources of the artificial colors that go into our foods, and these are ultimately dangerous to our health.  It makes little sense to put these into our food supply if we’re not designed to ingest them in the first place.  But selling products and making money are the bottom line.  Without at least a little prior knowledge, the unsuspecting consumer would never know that yellow #5 is cleverly disguised by its chemical name, tartrazine, sometimes called E102.  If mixed with blue #1, called E133, it makes green. Blue #1 may contain aluminum, although potassium and calcium salts are more common.  Most of E133 ends up in the feces, which could be green.  Tartrazine has provoked allergic reactions in sensitive persons, but you never know who that is until it happens, and most of us never make a connection.  (Kashanian. 2011)  To its credit, the FDA will seize products that do not declare the presence of tartrazine, which also is alleged to exacerbate asthma symptoms.  There is a blue #2, but it’s seldom used in foods because it fades at alkali pH.  Its use in snacks and candies may evoke a hyperactivity reaction.

Red #40 is an azo dye, meaning that it contains two nitrogens.  It’s also known as allura red or E129.  Originally made from coal tar, red #40 is now made from petroleum.  Isn’t that a comfort?  Contrary to popular misconception, it is not made from insects.  Carmine is, made from the female cochineal insect, whose body is dried and pulverized or otherwise processed.  From intensive European studies it was concluded that behavioral anomalies in children arise especially when the blues and the reds are combined with benzoate preservatives.  (McCann. 2007)  Red #3 is called erythrosine, E127, and is not that common in the U.S., having been replaced by #40.  Number 3 was found to be a potent inhibitor of a substance that blocks and destroys cancer cells, named tumor necrosis factor.  So, while some research says it may not directly cause cancer, red #3 interferes with the body’s protection against it, while simultaneously showing cytotoxicity, particularly to breast tissue.  (Ganesan. 2011) (Dees. 1997)

Why take the chance when there are natural colorants?  Read the labels.  Sweets and sports drinks, blueberry muffins and cereals with “fruits,” yogurt and canned icing could give you more than you bargained for.  Caramel coloring from sugar, annatto red-orange from achiote, chlorophyll green, turmeric yellow, paprika red, elderberry purple, butterfly pea blue, beet red, and blue from red cabbage are real.

Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Bode Matz PC;  Attorneys at Law;  Suite 400; 1400 Sixteenth Street, NW; Washington, D.C. 20036

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Tsuda S, Murakami M, Matsusaka N, Kano K, Taniguchi K, Sasaki YF.
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Ganesan L, Margolles-Clark E, Song Y, Buchwald P.
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Dees C, Askari M, Garrett S, Gehrs K, Henley D, Ardies CM.
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Shimada C, Kano K, Sasaki YF, Sato I, Tsudua S.
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Shaw DW.
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.