Should We ‘Eat a Rainbow’? An Umbrella Review of the Health Effects of Colorful Bioactive Pigments in Fruits and Vegetables

Michelle Blumfield, Hannah Mayr, Nienke De Vlieger, Kylie Abbott, Carlene Starck, Flavia Fayet-Moore*, Skye Marshall

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)
    67 Downloads (Pure)


    Health promotion campaigns have advocated for individuals to ‘eat a rainbow’ of fruits and vegetables (FV). However, the literature has only focused on individual color pigments or individual health outcomes. This umbrella review synthesized the evidence on the health effects of a variety of color-associated bioactive pigments found in FV (carotenoids, flavonoids, betalains and chlorophylls), compared to placebo or low intakes. A systematic search of PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL and CENTRAL was conducted on 20 October 2021, without date limits. Meta-analyzed outcomes were evaluated for certainty via the GRADE system. Risk of bias was assessed using the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine critical appraisal tools. A total of 86 studies were included, 449 meta-analyzed health outcomes, and data from over 37 million participants were identified. A total of 42% of health outcomes were improved by color-associated pigments (91% GRADE rating very low to low). Unique health effects were identified: n = 6 red, n = 10 orange, n = 3 yellow, n = 6 pale yellow, n = 3 white, n = 8 purple/blue and n = 1 green. Health outcomes associated with multiple color pigments were body weight, lipid profile, inflammation, cardiovascular disease, mortality, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Findings show that color-associated FV variety may confer additional benefits to population health beyond total FV intake.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number4061
    Issue number13
    Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2022


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