The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 12 No. 5 • October 2009

Increasing HDL Levels with Anthocyanins

As we have noted before, it is more difficult to increase HDL than it is to decrease LDL; a few ways to increase HDL include niacin,1 orange juice,2 cocoa,3 phosphatidylinositol.4 moderate alcohol, and exercise.

Here we report a new paper5 that describes the effects on HDL of a placebo or a supplement of 160 mg twice a day of anthocyanins for 12 weeks in 120 dyslipidemic subjects (age 40–65 years). Anthocyanins are naturally colored molecules that give fruits (such as berries) and vegetables (e.g., purple carrots and potatoes) their red, blue, and purple colors. The anthocyanin supplement was a proprietary mixture of 17 different natural purified anthocyanins from bilberry and black currant. A possible mechanism for the effect of the anthocyanins was also investigated by examining the effects of the anthocyanin cyanidin 3-O-beta-glucosides in the human HepG2 (liver cell) line.

Results showed that, after 12 weeks, the serum HDL-cholesterol concentration increased significantly more in the anthocyanin group than in the placebo group (13.7% (95% CI: 10.4%, 16.9%)) vs. 2.8% (95% CI: –1.6%, 7.2%)), respectively; P<0.001). Moreover, serum LDL cholesterol decreased by 13.6% (95% CI: 10.1%, 17.1%) in the anthocyanin group and increased by 0.6% (95% CI: –4.1%, 5.2%) in the placebo group by the end of the intervention, which was significantly different between the two groups (P<0.001).

A possible mechanism was identified in the in vitro study in HepG2 cells. The anthocyanin cyanidin 3-O-beta-glucosides suppressed CETP activity in a dose dependent manner. CETP is cholesterol ester transfer protein, which modifies HDL particles. It has been reported that in humans, plasma CETP activity is inversely correlated with HDL cholesterol levels (the higher the CETP level, the lower the HDL level).6


  1. Zhang et al. Niacin inhibits surface expression of ATP synthase beta chain in HepG2 cells: implications for raising HDL. J Lipid Res 49:1195-1201 (2008).
  2. Kurowska et al. HDL-cholesterol-raising effect of orange juice in subjects with hypercholesterolemia. Am J Clin Nutr 72:1095-1100 (2000).
  3. Baba et al. Continuous intake of polyphenolic compounds containing cocoa powder reduces LDL oxidative susceptibility and has beneficial effects on plasma HDL-cholesterol concentrations in humans. Am J Clin Nutr 85:709-17 (2007).
  4. Burgess et al. Phosphatidylinositol increases HDL-C levels in humans. J Lipid Res 46:350-5 (2005).
  5. Qin et al. Anthocyanin supplementation improves serum LDL- and HDL-cholesterol concentrations associated with the inhibition of cholesteryl ester transfer protein in dyslipidemic subjects. Am J Clin Nutr 90:485-92 (2009).
  6. Beyer et al. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha agonists regulate cholesterol ester transfer protein. Lipids 43:611-8 (2008).

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