Scientists at the University of Warwick have been studying the beneficial effects of strawberries on cardiovascular health and found that strawberries positively activate a protein in the body called “Nrf2,” which is shown to increase antioxidant and other protective activities. This activation could possibly prevent the development of heart disease and diabetes. Researchers also found that the protein decreases blood lipids and cholesterol.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2008, over 616,000 people died of heart disease. Heart disease caused almost 25 percent of deaths – almost one in every four-in the United States and is the leading cause of death for both men and women.
Professor Paul Thornalley from Warwick Medical School heads the team of researchers and said people should feel free to eat more strawberries.
“We’ve discovered the science behind how strawberries work to increase our in-built defenses to keep cells, organs and blood vessels healthy and which can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular problems such as heart disease and diabetes,” Thornalley said. “So don’t feel guilty about serving up strawberries and cream … although I’d suggest more strawberries and less or even no cream.”
Previous studies have shown that eating strawberries after a meal can fight blood sugar and bad cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart diseases and diabetes. However, researchers say that this is the first time that strawberry extracts have been proved to actively stimulate proteins that offer us protection against disease.
Researchers are going back to the drawing board to further help identify the best varieties of strawberries, how they are served or processed and how many strawberries should be eaten for optimum health benefit.
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The research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Thornalley will be presenting the research at the forthcoming 16th biennial meeting for the Society for Free Radical Research International (SFRRI) http://www.sfrrimeeting.org/ at Imperial College London.