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Prescription 2014: Strawberries

January 14, 2014 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

The word ‘prescription’ has become synonymous with medications that can only be prescribed by a licensed physician. In 2014, I’m going to do my part to reinvent the use of this word. Beginning today and continuing onward for each month of 2014, I’m going to prescribe a natural practice that may very well transform your current state of health for the better. The more “prescriptions” you adopt, the more your wellness is likely to improve.

The latest volume of Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition describes the potential of the common strawberry to modify risk factors relating to diabetes, heart disease and more. The publication explains that strawberries are a rich source of antioxidant phyto- or plant- chemicals, such as anthocyanins, catechins, ellagic acid and quercetin, which affect various “biomarkers or pathways related to chronic disease”. The review primarily cites population studies that draw an inverse association between strawberry consumption and elevated blood sugar, hypertension and systemic inflammation. The closing comment in the review makes a plea for further research to define the optimal dose and duration of strawberry intake needed to afford such health benefits. Thankfully, a few recently published papers address this very issue.

In December, a one month study presented in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry revealed that eating 500 grams of strawberries (about 2 cups) daily lowered LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by 13.72%, triglycerides by 20.8% and significantly decreased markers of oxidative stress – isoprostanes (-27.90%), serum malondialdehyde (-31.40%) and urinary 8-OHdG (-29.67%). In addition, a reduction in the number of activated platelets was noted and suggests a circulatory benefit. What’s also of interest about this particular study is that it was carried out in a group of already “healthy volunteers”. In real world terms this indicates that frequent strawberry use may be useful as a preventive measure against heart disease. A separate study involving type 2 diabetics, which utilized a freeze-dried strawberry extract (50 grams/day, equivalent to 500 grams of fresh strawberries), was also published at the end of 2013. The 6 week trial determined that the freeze-dried strawberry powder effectively lowered a long term measure of blood sugar (HbA1c), C-reactive protein (an inflammatory marker) and oxidized LDL cholesterol (a risk factor for atherosclerosis). This is of particular interest for anyone concerned about fruit, even low glycemic fruits like berries, causing unwelcome elevations in blood sugar.

Before adopting my strawberry prescription, please be aware that conventionally grown strawberries often harbor a wide array of pesticide residues. This is why I suggest buying organic. An added bonus is that organically grown strawberries tend to be higher in antioxidants. Finally, if you need one more reason to include more strawberries in your daily diet, consider this: Breaking research from the US Department of Agriculture and the University of California, Davis has found that regularly eating strawberries can support immune function in overweight individuals who are at a higher risk for infection. Specifically, dietary strawberries “increase the immunological response of T-lymphocytes and monocytes”. This is all the more reason to keep these delicious, red berries stocked in your refrigerator year round.

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 - Strawberry As a Functional Food: An Evidence-Based Review (link)

Study 2 - One-Month Strawberry-Rich Anthocyanin Supplementation Ameliorates (link)

Study 3 – Effects of Freeze-Dried Strawberry Supplementation on Metabolic (link)

Study 4 - Assessment of Pesticide Residues in Strawberries Grown Under Various (link)

Study 5 - Analysis of Pesticide Residues in Strawberries and Soils by GC-MS/MS (link)

Study 6 – Strawberries from Integrated and Organic Production: Mineral Contents (link)

Study 7 - Dietary Strawberries Increase the Proliferative Response of CD3/CD28 ... (link)

Blueberries & Strawberries May Reduce Cardiovascular Disease Risk

Source: Circulation. 2013 Jan 15;127(2):188-96. (link)

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4 Comments to “Prescription 2014: Strawberries”

  1. Gianfranco Paul F. Says:

    Hi John Paul,

    Welcome back! Congratulations for coining the usage of the word prescription to natural health recommendations by reputable scientifically founded researchers.
    I look forward to read your prescriptions.
    Wish you success!

    Paul F.

  2. JP Says:

    Thank you, Paul! It’s good to be back!

    Be well!

    JP

  3. Mark S Says:

    Since strawberries are seasonal here and what you get in the store at this time of the year are very expensive, would frozen strawberries provide the same benefits?

  4. JP Says:

    Hi Mark,

    IMO, yes. Frozen strawberries and frozen berries in general are good alternatives. They tend to be less expensive and are more likely to be found in an organic form. The only downside to frozen berries (especially strawberries) is that they don’t eat very well in a thawed state due to their mushy texture. But, they’re excellent in many recipes and smoothies.

    Be well!

    JP

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