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Do the health benefits of berry pigments make it past the mouth?

Research suggests compounds responsible for the rich hues in colorful fruits, like berries, promote health. However, authors of a new study warn the potential benefits of anthocyanin compounds in berries may not make it past the mouth.

To test which health-promoting substances in berries are likely to survive and be produced in the mouth, researchers of the study, from the Ohio State University, measured the extent of anthocyanin pigment degradation when exposed to saliva. 

Researchers of the study exposed extracts of anthocyanin pigments from blueberries, chokeberries, black raspberries, red grapes and strawberries to the saliva collected from 14 people. They found two families of anthocyanins were consistently broken down when exposed to saliva: delphinidin and petunidin, and four other families were more stable: cyanidin, pelargonidin, peonidin and malvidin, according to a news release from the university.

Additionally, oral microflora contributed to the degradation of all anthocyanins. The study suggests that the bacteria within one’s oral cavity are a primary mediator of pigment metabolism. The bacteria are converting compounds that are present in the foods into metabolites.

One area of great interest is whether the health-promoting benefits associated with eating anthocyaninrich fruits like berries are provided by the pigment itself, the natural combinations of the pigments in the fruit or the metabolites produced by bacteria in the mouth and other regions of the gastrointestinal tract.

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