Strawberries offer a wide variety of potential health benefits, studies show
This post is sponsored by California Strawberry Commission.
Strawberries are one of US consumers’ favorite fruits, especially in the summer months when they’re in season and perfect for showcasing in dishes from salads to desserts. Their antioxidant and vitamin C content have made them a perennially popular choice with health-conscious consumers, and a collection of new studies suggest strawberries may have many more health benefits to offer.
From better brain function to decreased inflammation, strawberry consumption can have a positive impact on health in several ways, according to the findings of six studies presented at the annual American Society for Nutrition’s Nutrition 2020 conference last month.
Berries for brain power
Strawberries are rich in flavonoids, and eating a serving of the fruit a few times per week appears to be associated with a decrease in neurofibrillary tangles, one of the characteristic hallmarks of Alzheimer’s Disease, according to research from Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center.
"Our study found higher dietary intake of a bioactive -- pelargonidin, that is primarily present in strawberries -- may lower the Alzheimer's disease brain pathology in older adults," said study author Dr. Puja Agarwal, who concluded that the fruit’s role in maintaining brain health in older adults warrants further study.
Increased heart health
Strawberries have also been shown to have positive effects on cholesterol levels, and a pair of recent studies saw lipid improvements in high-risk participants.
Two and a half servings of strawberries per day for four weeks appears to reduce small dense LDL particles, according to one study, authored by Dr. Arpita Basu of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, while the other study saw significant improvements in LDL, non-HDL, and total cholesterol levels in subjects who consumed even smaller amounts of the fruit.
“Our results suggest that one serving of strawberries per day may improve cholesterol levels in adults with overweight or obesity,” said University of Arizona’s Dr. Ann Skulas-Ray.
Good for the gut
Three studies looking at the fruit’s effects on the gut microbiome produced notable results. Researchers at University of California, Los Angeles, found that prolonged daily consumption of strawberries altered the gut microbiota, and the effects were partially reversed after subjects returned to a diet without strawberries.
A diet that regularly includes strawberries may have the potential to decrease inflammation of the colon and boost gut health, research from the Illinois Institute of Technology suggests.
In addition to effects on gut health, a third study pointed to a possible gut-heart connection that could benefit from strawberry intake. Scientists at the University of California, Davis, associated strawberry intake with a significant increase in a type of bacteria that could help improve heart health.
A metabolic boost
The UC Davis study may also point to a link between strawberry consumption and reduced blood sugar, as initial analysis shows adults at high risk for heart disease experienced a drop in fasting blood sugar levels after they consumed the equivalent of three servings of strawberries per day.
Dr. Basu, whose previously mentioned study explored the effects of strawberries on LDL cholesterol, also noted possible metabolic benefits associated with the fruit.
“Individuals at risk for diabetes may benefit from consuming two-and-a-half servings of whole strawberries and experience improved insulin function within four weeks,” she said.