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UC strawberry study boosts health claims

by Brian Gaylord | March 22, 2010
A study conducted by University of California Los Angeles researchers and published recently in the Journal of Medicinal Food further indicates the prevalence of antioxidants in strawberries and subsequent health benefits from eating strawberries.

According to the study, 21 healthy women ate about one-half pound of frozen strawberries daily for three weeks. Several measures of antioxidant capacity in the blood were taken.

Eating strawberries resulted in an increase in the body's ability to prevent the oxidation of blood lipids such as LDL cholesterol.

Increased levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol in the blood have been identified as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the number one killer of women and men.

Eating strawberries regularly can increase the body's antioxidant capacity, which may have heart, health and other benefits.

Susanne Henning, a registered dietician and adjunct professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA's Center for Human Nutrition, told The Produce News that the reason only women were used in the research was to increase the statistical power of the study.

"There is a small difference between the absorption and metabolism of phytochemicals between men and women," Ms. Henning said. "Therefore we wanted to go with either men or women only. In our participant pool, there are more women, and recruitment is easier if we just enroll women. But the results will be applicable to men as well."

Most of the analyses for the study were done in her lab, Ms. Henning said. The Journal of Medicinal Food specializes on the effects of natural and alternative remedies, and it was interested in publishing this study, according to Ms. Henning.

The study said that the antioxidant power in strawberries becomes "bioavailable" -- or ready to work in the blood -- after just a few short weeks of eating, resulting in the potential to improve the body's defense against chronic disease.

David Grotto, a registered dietician and consultant to the California Strawberry Commission, said that there's a lot of talk about the levels of antioxidants in fruit, but that a food containing antioxidants doesn't guarantee that those antioxidants are available for use by the body once eaten.

"This study validates the importance of eating superfoods like strawberries on a regular basis," said Mr. Grotto, who is the author of the books 101 Optimal Life Foods and 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life.

Antioxidants have been determined to combat free-radical damage to cells, thus promoting health and longevity.

Mr. Grotto said that frozen strawberries are nutrient-rich and were as useful as fresh strawberries for the study.

The study has implications for children, Mr. Grotto said. "Strawberries are a number 1 fruit for kids," he said. "It's not a hard sell to get people to eat strawberries."

(For more on California strawberries, see the March 22, 2010, issue of The Produce News.