Purple corn extract is derived from purple corn, a plant that belongs to the same species as yellow table corn, but contains vividly-colored biologically active natural plant dyes. Native South Americans have been using the dyes, known as anthocyanins, to color food and drinks for centuries. Anthocyanins are flavonoids, a category of antioxidants being studied for their potential health benefits.
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Monica Giusti, an assistant professor of food science at Ohio State University, led a team studying anthocyanins’ cancer fighting potential. During the study, the team took anthocyanins from different plant sources, including purple corn, grapes, radishes, chokeberries, bilberries, purple carrots and elderberries, and compared the amount of each different type of anthocyanin it took to reduce in vitro cancer growth by 50 percent. Anthocyanins from purple corn proved to be the winner; it took less anthocyanin derived from purple corn to reduce cancer growth by half than it did any other anthocyanin extract. During the study, researchers found that anthocyanins extracted from purple corn also killed 20 percent of in vitro cancer cells, while leaving surrounding tissue relatively unharmed.