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Anthocyanins: are they beneficial in treating ethanol neurotoxicity?

Heavy alcohol exposure produces profound damage to the developing central nervous system (CNS) as well as the adult brain. Children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) have a variety of cognitive, behavioral, and neurological impairments. FASD currently represents the leading cause of mental retardation. Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) and neurodegeneration in the adult brain. Although the cellular/molecular mechanism underlying ethanol's neurotoxicity has not been fully understood, it is generally believed that oxidative stress plays an important role. Identification of neuroprotective agents that can ameliorate ethanol neurotoxicity is an important step for developing preventive/therapeutic strategies. Targeting ethanol-induced oxidative stress using natural antioxidants is an attractive approach. Anthocyanins, a large subgroup of flavonoids present in many vegetables and fruits, are safe and potent antioxidants. They exhibit diverse potential health benefits including cardioprotection, anti-atherosclerotic activity, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, and anti-inflammation properties. Anthocyanins can cross the blood-brain barrier and distribute in the CNS. Recent studies indicate that anthocyanins represent novel neuroprotective agents and may be beneficial in ameliorating ethanol neurotoxicity. In this review, we discuss the evidence and potential of anthocyanins in alleviating ethanol-induced damage to the CNS. Furthermore, we discuss possible underlying mechanisms as well as future research approaches necessary to establish the therapeutic role of anthocyanins.

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