The Health Benefits of Strawberries: A Functional Food

A new comprehensive literature review by researchers at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Strawberries as a Functional Food:  An evidence-based review,” examines research to support the health-promoting benefits associated with strawberry consumption, and discusses the fruit’s nutrient and phytochemical composition and bioavailability.  A popular fruit that is available throughout the year, strawberries are a rich source of phytochemicals (anthocyanins, catechins, the flavonols quercetin and kaempferol, and ellagic acid) and an important source of essential nutrients (ascorbic acid, potassium, folic acid, carotenoids, B-vitamins).  Strawberries are consistently ranked among the top food sources of polyphenols and antioxidant capacity; the preventive and therapeutic health benefits of strawberries may be attributed to the synergistic effects of these bioactives and the nutrients contained in the fruit.

The article reports results of epidemiological studies that support the protective effects of strawberries against a variety of chronic diseases and conditions, including hypertension, inflammation, cancer and cardiovascular mortality. In addition, clinical studies are reviewed that examine the health benefits of strawberries in healthy or overweight subjects and in individuals with mild to moderate elevations in serum cholesterol and with metabolic syndrome, showing favorable postprandial effects on glucose and lipid profiles.

The researchers identify emerging research in animal and cell models that provides evidence for the mechanisms of action of strawberries and their phytochemicals to ameliorate obesity, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, hypertension and oxidative stress, as well as exert anti-carcinogenic effects.  Results of emerging research are also reviewed that support the role of strawberries in reversing age-related neurodegenerative disorders, with the mechanisms of action having potential implications in the reversal of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

Based on the review of several lines of evidence, the authors conclude strawberries satisfy the definition of a functional food, and that the consumption of strawberries—either fresh or frozen—can be an effective disease management and health-promoting dietary strategy.

Published online in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, February 19, 2013.

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10408398.2011.608174

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