, Volume 240, Issue 5, pp 901-911

First online:

Anthocyanins in corn: a wealth of genes for human health

  • Katia PetroniAffiliated withDipartimento di Bioscienze, Università degli Studi di Milano Email author 
  • , Roberto PiluAffiliated withDipartimento di Scienze Agrarie e Ambientali-Produzione, Territorio, Agroenergia, Università degli Studi di Milano
  • , Chiara TonelliAffiliated withDipartimento di Bioscienze, Università degli Studi di Milano

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Different epidemiological and preclinical studies have demonstrated that regular consumption of anthocyanin-rich foods is associated to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and obesity. However, assigning a health property to anthocyanins or other classes of flavonoids may be limited by the influence of other metabolites of plant-based food consumed in the diet, acting as possible confounding factors. The development of model foods essentially isogenic and nutritionally identical except that in the type and quantity of plant bioactives to be studied represents an important tool in nutritional studies. The extensive knowledge of the regulation of flavonoid pathway in maize can be exploited to obtain ‘near-isogenic’ model foods, which differ only in the content of specific classes of flavonoids. Being obtainable by breeding strategies, maize model foods can provide functional foods that can be used for both animal feeding studies and human intervention trials for assessing the role of flavonoids or other bioactives in preventing chronic diseases. This review will be focused on recent advances regarding the anthocyanin biosynthesis in maize, the role of anthocyanins from corn in preventing chronic diseases and finally on the breeding activities to produce maize functional foods with increased anthocyanin content.


Chronic diseases Functional food Maize Model food Nutrigenomics