Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


AnThocyanin and polyphenol bioactives for health enhancement through nutritional advancement (Nutrition)

Project acronym: ATHENA

Title of project: AnThocyanin and polyphenol bioactives for health enhancement through nutritional advancement

Research area: Nutrition

Contract No: 245121

EU contribution: € 2 996 226

Start date: July 2010

Duration: 48 months

Status: on-going

Anthocyanins belong to flavonoids and are responsible for the red, purple, and blue colors of many fruits, vegetables, cereal grains and flowers. These compounds are present in high amounts in blackcurrants, raspberries, aubergines, blood orange juice and blueberries. They are health promoting dietary polyphenols that protect against cardiovascular disease, cancer and obesity in preclinical studies with animals.

The overall objective of the ATHENA project is to provide a robust scientific foundation for improved dietary recommendations that include foods with high levels of anthocyanins and related polyphenols to promote health and to protect against chronic disease.

ATHENA will bring together groups with widely different expertise from across Europe, so that the consortium will be able to achieve significant progress towards addressing the Grand Challenge of Chronic Disease. It will impact the health, well being and quality of life across Europe by achieving the following results:

  1. It project will define the dose response relationships between dietary anthocyanins (in different food contexts) and the promotion of health in preclinical studies and identify whether there is a possibility of excessive consumption of dietary anthocyanins.
  2. It will identify whether anthocyanins from different food sources promote health to the same or different extents in preclinical animal studies.
  3. It will determine whether dietary anthocyanins are comparable in their abilities to promote health to other better known but more nutritionally restricted polyphenols in preclinical animal studies.
  4. It will develop models defining the mechanisms whereby dietary anthocyanins offer cardioprotection, limit cancer progression and limit weight gain on high-fat diets using nutrigenomics.
  5. It will define the impact of anthocyanins in the diet on the epigenome, and establish the relationship between the nutrition of the mother and the predisposition of her offspring to chronic diseases.
  6. It will compare the mechanisms of activity of dietary anthocyanins in promoting health with those of other better known but more nutritionally restricted polyphenols at the molecular, cellular and whole organism levels.
  7. It will define whether anthocyanins supplied in purified forms can work as effectively as anthocyanins in a food context in promoting health in preclinical studies.
  8. It will define whether the food context of polyphenol phytonutrients has a significant impact on the bioavailability of these bioactives.
  9. It will determine whether longer term dietary interventions with anthocyanin-enriched food can offer protection against cardiovascular disease in human.
  10. It will determine whether supplementation of diets with anthocyanin-enriched foods can limit the degree of oxidative DNA damage following radiation therapy in breast cancer patients.
  11. It will determine whether there is a genetic component to the response to dietary polyphenol phytonutrients in patients with a predisposition to cardiovascular disease and contribute towards personalised medical and health programs.
  12. It will take advantage of the synergies arising from the multidisciplinary interactions within the project, such that each group will benefit from the diverse yet complementary expertise, tools and resources available from the participating experts in plant biotechnology, genetics, organic chemistry, food technology, nutrition, experimental medicine and clinical epidemiology to make real advances in an area of enormous strategic relevance for Europe.
  13. It will provide robust scientific data for new food formulations and dietary recommendations for healthy living and improved quality of life.

Website of project:

Coordinator: Prof. Cathie Martin,

Organisation: John Innes Centre,