It’s the news that Wimbledon tennis fans have been waiting for – eating strawberries could help stave off ageing and even prevent cancer.
New research reveals that eating the fruit helps boost antioxidant levels in the blood.
Higher levels of antioxidants have been found to combat the effects of oxidative stress, lessening the effects of ageing and even the chances of contracting diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Spanish and Italian researchers fed 12 healthy volunteers half a kilo of strawberries over two weeks.
They took blood samples from volunteers after four, eight, 12 and 16 days, and also a month later.
Results, published in journal Chemistry, showed that eating strawberries regularly can boost levels of antioxidants in the blood and also help prevent red blood cells undergoing haemolysis, a process which sees them fragmenting.
Scientists from Marche Polytechnic University in Italy and the University of Granada in Spain say that the power of strawberries lies in the high levels of phenolic compounds they contain, which have antioxidant properties.
Oxidative stress can also occur as we age, when we exercise or even give birth, highlighting the potential of the humble soft fruit.
They plan to investigate whether the similar benefits can come from eating a more manageable amount of strawberries – such as 150g or 200g, and also want to look at which varities of strawberries contain the most antioxidants.
Study author Dr Maurizio Battino, from Marche Polytechnic Univesity said: ‘We have shown that some varieties of strawberries make erythrocytes more resistant to oxidative stress.
‘This could be of great significance if you take into account that this phenomenon can lead to serious diseases.
‘We are now analysing the variations caused by eating smaller quantities of strawberries – average consumption tends to be a 150g or 200g bowl per day.
‘The important thing is that strawberries should form a part of people’s healthy and balanced diet, as one of their five daily portions of fruit and vegetables.’
Dr Jose Luis Quiles, from the University of Granada added: ‘Various strawberry varieties are also being analysed in the laboratory, since they each contain antioxidants in differing amounts and proportions.
‘The body has an extensive arsenal of very diverse antioxidant mechanisms, which act at different levels.
‘These can be cellular tools that repair oxidised genetic material, or molecules that are either manufactured by the body itself or consumed through the diet, which neutralise free radicals.
‘Strawberries contain a large amount of phenolic compounds, such as flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties.
‘These substances reduce oxidative stress, an imbalance that occurs in certain pathologies, (such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes) and physiological situations (birth, ageing, physical exercise), as well as in the battles between “reactive kinds of oxygen” – in particular free radicals – and the body’s antioxidant defences.
‘When the level of oxidation exceeds these antioxidant defences, oxidative stress occurs.
‘Aside from causing certain illnesses, this is also implicated in phenomena such as the speed at which we may age, for example.’