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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.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

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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Posted in Food and Drink, Heart Health, Nutrition

9 Comments & Updates 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!


  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!


  5. JP Says:

    Updated 07/21/15:


    Food Funct. 2015 May;6(5):1386-98.

    Strawberry as a health promoter: an evidence based review.

    Since a high intake of fruits and vegetables is inversely related to the incidence of several degenerative diseases, the importance of a balanced diet in relation to human health has received increased consumer attention worldwide. Strawberries (Fragaria X ananassa, Duch.) are a rich source of a wide variety of nutritive compounds such as sugars, vitamins, and minerals, as well as non-nutritive, bioactive compounds such as flavonoids, anthocyanins and phenolic acids. All of these compounds exert a synergistic and cumulative effect on human health promotion and in disease prevention. Strawberry phenolics are indeed able (i) to detoxify free radicals blocking their production, (ii) to modulate the expression of genes involved in metabolism, cell survival and proliferation and antioxidant defense, and (iii) to protect and repair DNA damage. The overall objective of the present review is to update and discuss the key findings, from recent in vivo studies, on the effects of strawberries on human health. Particular attention will be paid to the molecular mechanisms proposed to explain the health effects of polyphenols against the most common diseases related to oxidative stress driven pathologies, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, type II diabetes, obesity and neurodegenerative diseases, and inflammation.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Updated 07/21/15:


    Food Chem. 2015 Aug 15;181:94-100.

    Influences of organically and conventionally grown strawberry cultivars on anthocyanins content and color in purees and low-sugar jams.

    The objective of this study was to detect influences of cultivar, cultivation and processing on anthocyanin content and color in purees and low-sugar jams produced from strawberry cultivars (Elsanta, Maya, Marmolada, Queen Elisa), grown under conventional and organic cultivation. Color was determined by CIELab values while anthocyanins were quantified by HPLC-UV/VIS-PDA. Queen Elisa was the best cultivar for processing as it had highest total anthocyanin content (TAC) that was well preserved in processing. On average, processing purees to jams decreased TAC for 28% where pelargonidin-3-glucoside revealed most noticeable loss (53%) and cyanidin-3-rutinoside was best preserved in processing. Obtained results indicated that measurement of colorimetric parameters are strongly correlated with content of anthocyanins. In other words, loss of anthocyanins during processing was accompanied by noticeable decrease in lightness, red/yellow color and total color change. Results showed that change of color is useful predictor for estimating anthocyanins in strawberry purees and jams.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Updated 07/21/15:


    J Agric Food Chem. 2015 Jan 28;63(3):1010-9.

    Nontargeted metabolite profiles and sensory properties of strawberry cultivars grown both organically and conventionally.

    Strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa Duch.) contains many secondary metabolites potentially beneficial for human health, and several of these compounds contribute to strawberry sensory properties, as well. In this study, three strawberry cultivars grown both conventionally and organically were subjected to nontargeted metabolite profiling analysis with LC-qTOF-ESI-MS and to descriptive sensory evaluation by a trained panel. Combined metabolome and sensory data (PLS model) revealed that 79% variation in the metabolome explained 88% variation in the sensory profiles. Flavonoids and condensed and hydrolyzable tannins determined the orosensory properties, and fatty acids contributed to the odor attributes of strawberry. Overall, the results indicated that the chemical composition and sensory quality of strawberries grown in different cultivation systems vary mostly according to cultivar. Organic farming practices may enhance the accumulation of some plant metabolites in specific strawberry genotypes. Careful cultivar selection is a key factor for the improvement of nutritional quality and marketing value of organic strawberries.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Updated 07/19/16:


    J Nutr Metab. 2016;2016:3910630.

    Effects of Dietary Strawberry Supplementation on Antioxidant Biomarkers in Obese Adults with Above Optimal Serum Lipids.

    Berries have shown several cardiovascular health benefits and have been associated with antioxidant functions in experimental models. Clinical studies are limited. We examined the antioxidant effects of freeze-dried strawberries (FDS) in adults [n = 60; age: 49 ± 10 years; BMI: 36 ± 5 kg/m2 (mean ± SD)] with abdominal adiposity and elevated serum lipids. Participants were randomized to one of the following arms: low dose strawberry (25 g/day FDS), low dose control beverage (LD-C), high dose strawberry (50 g/d FDS), and high dose control beverage (HD-C) for 12 weeks. Control beverages were matched for calories and total fiber. Plasma antioxidant capacity, trace elements (copper, iron, selenium, and zinc), whole blood glutathione (GSH), and enzyme activity (catalase, glutathione peroxidase, and glutathione reductase) were examined at screening (0 week) and after 12 weeks’ intervention. At 12 weeks, plasma antioxidant capacity and glutathione levels were higher in the strawberry versus control groups (low and high dose FDS: 45% and 42% for plasma antioxidant capacity and 28% and 36% for glutathione, resp.); glutathione was higher in the high versus low dose strawberry group (all p < 0.05). Serum catalase activity was higher in the low dose strawberry (43%) versus control group (p < 0.01). No differences were noted in plasma trace elements and glutathione enzyme activity. Dietary strawberries may selectively increase plasma antioxidant biomarkers in obese adults with elevated lipids. Be well! JP

  9. JP Says:

    Updated 11/02/18:


    Food Funct., 2018, Advance Article

    Strawberries decrease circulating levels of tumor necrosis factor and lipid peroxides in obese adults with knee osteoarthritis

    Objective: Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is increasingly prevalent in obese people, who often have high cardio-metabolic risk factors. Among the few available non-surgical approaches, nutraceuticals have gained popularity, and dietary berries have mitigated arthritis symptoms in observational and animal studies. Clinical studies in OA are sparse, but recently we reported that strawberry supplementation can mitigate pain and reduce inflammatory markers in adults with knee OA. This study extends those observations. Methods: We conducted a randomized cross-over double-blind placebo-controlled trial on the effects of dietary freeze-dried strawberries on obesity-related hormones, biomarkers of inflammation and lipid peroxidation. Seventeen subjects (4 men, 13 women; age 57 ± 3 year) were randomized to strawberry supplements (50 g day−1 for 12 weeks) vs. placebo (50 g day−1, matched for calories and fiber), for two 12-week intervention periods, separated by 2-week washout phase. Results: Among 24 biomarkers of inflammation examined (Bioplex-Pro human inflammation panel), 12 were detectable in all samples. Among these, high-sensitivity TNF-α (hs-TNF-α) and the soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor (sTNF-R2) were significantly decreased after strawberry consumption (p < 0.05). There were no changes in other biomarkers of the TNF super family, such as APRIL and BAFF. Among serum biomarkers of oxidative stress, 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal (4-HNE) and conjugated dienes were also reduced (p < 0.05). No changes were observed in body weight, serum obesity-related hormones, or osteocalcin. Conclusion: Strawberries lowered TNF-α, and lipid peroxidation products in obese adults with knee OA. Since, they also mitigate pain, these findings merit further investigation in larger trials. Be well! JP

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