Studies examine health benefits

07/20/2012 12:23:00 PM
Tom Burfield

The more research scientists conduct on the health benefits of berries, the more evidence they come up with showing that berries are good for us.

Strawberries and blueberries in particular have been subjected to numerous scientific studies.

The California Strawberry Commission recently posted studies about the effects of strawberries and cognitive decline, Parkinson’s disease and heart health, said Chris Christian, the commission’s vice president of marketing.

The Science News website recently reported on British research indicating strawberries seem to positively influence a protein that helps lower inflammation and cholesterol, she said.

“A team from the University of Warwick in England discovered that extracts from strawberries positively activate a protein called Nrf2, which is shown to increase antioxidants and other protective activities,” Christian said.

Scientists say the protein also works to decreases blood lipids and cholesterol, which can lead to cardiovascular problems.

“This is a very positive and supports other results we’ve found with strawberries being linked to heart health,” she said.

Strawberries seem to be protective in two areas: heart health and protecting people’s brains as they age, Christian said.

“Basically, everything related to heart health, strawberries have an impact on,” she said.

More links keep turning up between strawberries and preventing neurodegenerative diseases or conditions that occur as people get older, she said.

Blueberry benefits

Turning to blueberries, investigators are pursuing four tracks to better understand the role blueberries may play in promoting good health — cardiovascular health, insulin response, brain health and cancer risk reduction — according to a health research update issued by the Folsom, Calif.-based U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.

In a recent study of 48 obese subjects with metabolic syndrome, those who consumed a blueberry beverage over an eight-week period experienced a decrease in their systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to those who consumed a placebo beverage, the report said.

In an animal study at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research center at Tufts University in Massachusetts, obese mice were given high-fat diets with or without blueberries for eight weeks.

“The results yielded an improved insulin response with lower blood glucose levels in response to insulin in the blueberry-fed mice than in the controls,” the reports said.


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