12 January - 20 June 2016

Could consumption of berries help to reduce cancer?

A study, published in the journal Scientific Reports and conducted by researchers from institutions in Maryland, USA and Finland, suggests that compounds found in berry pigments can inhibit or activate the activity of a class of enzymes which are known to play a crucial role in the regulation of age related diseases.

A study, published in the journal Scientific Reports and conducted by researchers from institutions in Maryland, USA and Finland, suggests that compounds found in berry pigments can inhibit or activate the activity of a class of enzymes which are known to play a crucial role in the regulation of age related diseases.

Flavonoids, polyphenolic compounds found in plants, have antioxidant properties that previous studies have found to help prevent against diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Flavonoids have been found to regulate the activity of the SIRT (sirtuins) enzyme, a group of enzymes that are involved in the mechanism of many cellular pathways. Specifically, SIRT6, although not widely studied, is known to has multiple functions, ranging from protecting cells against oxidative stress, controlling the metabolism of both glucose and lipids and repairing DNA. It is also known to be crucial in the aging process and the regulation of age related diseases. Anthocyanins (flavonoid molecules) are the pigments found in berries, responsible for the red, blue and purple colours of flowers, fruits and vegetables and in the current study, the effect that compounds found in red berries have on the SIRT6 enzyme was of specific interest.

Rahnasto-Rilla et al. found that some classes of flavonoids inhibit the deacetylation activity of SIRT6 while others activate it with the effect being dependant on flavonoid subclass. Catechins for instance showed inhibition while anthocyanidins showed increased activation. 

It was specifically found that cyanidin (a specific anthocyanidin found in red berries - compound 17 in the study) increased production of deacetylase activity of SIRT6 by 55%. Cyanidin was described as “the most potent activator on SIRT6 expression” and increased expression of SIRT6 in colorectal cancer cells. It also decreased expression for certain cancer genes whilst increasing expression of a tumour suppressing gene FOXO3 displaying anti-carcinogenic properties.  As cyanidin increases activation of SIRT6, it may help to protect against age related diseases and the effect of oxidative stress through decreasing the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Lead author Minna Rahnasto-Rilla is quoted in a press release as saying that “the most interesting results of our study relate to cyanidin, which is an anthocyanin found abundantly in wild bilberry, blackcurrant and lingonberry”

Rahnasto-Rilla et al. indicate that as the exact mechanism of interaction between flavonoids, SIRT6 and cancer cells is unclear, more studies on the specific mechanism are needed, but they reiterate that their findings do demonstrate that the compounds found in red berries can modulate the activity of sirtuin 6 (SIRT6) providing protective benefits against age related diseases or the ageing process.

RSSL can analyse food products for polyphenolic components. To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

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