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Great nutraceutical potential of bioactive compounds from Beta vulgaris cicla and rubra
Paolino Ninfali, Elena Antonini
Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla (BVc, leaf beet) and Beta vulgaris var. rubra (BVr, red beetroot) belong to the Amaranthaceae family and have been used for centuries as food and medicinal plants. The main bioactive phytochemicals of BVr are the betalains, a group of water-soluble pigments derived from betalamic acid, which are divided into two classes: the yellow/orange-coloured betaxanthins (BX) and the red/violet-coloured betacyanins (BC). The seeds, leaves and roots of BVc are rich in phenolic acids and apigenin-derived flavonoids, namely vitexin, vitexin-2-O-rhamnoside (VOR) and vitexina-2-O-xyloside (XVX). We isolated BVc and BVr phytochemicals in our laboratory and tested them individually and in combination for their anticancer and anti-inflammatory activity. In cancer cells, vitexin flavonoids were able to induce intrinsic apoptosis, while betalains induced extrinsic apoptosis. Combinations of two or three molecules exhibited synergistic antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer activity, particularly towards hepatic, intestinal and urinary bladder tumours.