The role of anthocyanins as antidiabetic agents: from molecular mechanisms to in vivo and human studies


Diabetes mellitus is a chronic metabolic disease characterized by high blood glucose concentration. Nowadays, type 2 diabetes or insulin resistant diabetes is the most common diabetes, mainly due to unhealthy lifestyle. Healthy habits like appropriate nutritional approaches or the consumption of certain natural products or food supplements have been suggested as non-pharmacological strategies for the treatment and prevention of type 2 diabetes. Some of the main bioactive compounds from plant foods are polyphenols, important mainly for their antioxidant capacity in oxidative stress conditions and ageing. Anthocyanins are polyphenols of the flavonoid group, which act as pigments in plants, especially in fruits such as berries. A search of in vitro, in vivo and human studies in relation with antidiabetic properties of anthocyanins has been performed in different electronic databases. Results of this review demonstrate that these compounds have the ability to inhibit different enzymes as well as to influence gene expression and metabolic pathways of glucose, such as AMPK, being able to modulate diabetes and other associated disorders, as hyperlipidaemia, overweight, obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Additionally, human interventional studies have shown that high doses of anthocyanins have potential in the prevention or treatment of type 2 diabetes; nevertheless, anthocyanins used in these studies should be standardized and quantified in order to make general conclusions about its use and to claim benefits for the human population.

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Universidad San Jorge and Industrias Químicas del Ebro are acknowledged for providing PhD grants to Guillermo Cásedas. Authors acknowledge the mini-network of CTPIOD (Conferences on Trans-Pyrenean Investigations in Obesity and Diabetes) for facilitating inter-laboratories exchanges.


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• Anthocyanins are natural polyphenols with antioxidant and antidiabetic properties.

• Human studies reveal the potential of anthocyanins in type 2 diabetes.

• In vitro and in vivo studies reveal that anthocyanins act as pleiotropic agents.

• Different targets and signalling pathways are modulated by anthocyanins.

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Les, F., Cásedas, G., Gómez, C. et al. The role of anthocyanins as antidiabetic agents: from molecular mechanisms to in vivo and human studies. J Physiol Biochem 77, 109–131 (2021).

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  • Dietary polyphenols
  • Diabetes
  • Clinical trials
  • Flavonoids
  • Anthocyanins
  • Functional foods