Adding strawberries to your daily diet offers some protection against diabetes and heart disease, according to scientists.
Professor Paul Thornalley of the University of Warwick in the UK and his team have been studying the beneficial effects of strawberries on cardiovascular health, particularly how they prevent the development of diabetes and heart disease.
They discovered that extracts from strawberries positively activate a protein in our bodies called â€˜Nrf2â€™ which is shown to increase antioxidant and other protective activities. This protein works to decrease blood lipids and cholesterol, the very things which can lead to cardiovascular problems.
Eating strawberries has previously been found to counter post meal blood glucose and low density lipoprotein, or â€˜badâ€™ cholesterol and therefore decrease risk of diabetes and heart disease, but this is the first time that strawberry extracts have been proved to actively stimulate proteins that offer protection against disease.
â€˜Weâ€™ve discovered the science behind how strawberries work to increase our inbuilt defences to keep cells, organs and blood vessels healthy and which can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular problems such as heart disease and diabetes,â€™ explained Thornalley.
â€˜So donâ€™t feel guilty about serving up strawberries and cream, although Iâ€™d suggest more strawberries and less or even no cream,â€™ he added.
Screening and mathematical modelling techniques developed at the University of Warwick can now take this research further to help identify the best varieties of strawberries, how they are served or processed and how many strawberries should be eaten for optimum health benefit.
â€˜The compounds that produce this effect are likely to be found in most, if not all, varieties of strawberry, but they will vary depending on certain factors such as the particular variety, how they are cultivated and how they are processed. It is important for us to optimise our study in this respect so that we can get the most out of the health benefits that strawberries offer,â€™ explained Thornalley.
There are similar compounds in other fruits and different types of vegetable, particularly brassica vegetables, but strawberries represent a particularly rich source of these compounds.
â€˜They are a favourite fruit for consumption, particularly during the summer months, so this news will probably be well received by many people. Strawberries represent a particularly tasty way to get health benefits,â€™ he added.
The research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and is led by Professor Paul Thornalley with Dr Naila Rabbani (Medical School), Dr Guy Barker (Life Sciences) and Professor David Rand (Systems Biology).
Professor Thornalley will be presenting the research at the forthcoming 16th biennial meeting for the Society for Free Radical Research International at Imperial College in London in September.