Strawberry Health Benefits, Side Effects, and Risks

By Shahidah Parveen

Strawberries are refreshing, fragrant, tantalizing, red beauty feast for our eyes. They also pack powerful health remedies. In addition to being a low calorie food, they’re rich in vitamin C, manganese, iodine, potassium, select vitamin Bs, omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, water, antioxidants, and much more. From being the perfect light desserts to ailment ridding medicines, strawberries have become a world favorite fruit. But do these aroma therapy berries have any side effects, any risks?

Examine the Benefits:

Strawberries are rich in phytonutrients called phenols (flavonoids, proanthocyanidins, ellagitannins, gallotannins, phenolic acids) which give the fruits their bright red color. The anthocyanins, a sub classification of phenols, have anti-inflammatory, anti-damage, anti-cancer properties which lessen activity of the enzyme cyclo-oxygenase. This is the enzyme that drugs like aspirin target to treat conditions such as rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Another phenol, ellagitannin is associated with decreased rates of cancer death. For example in one study, “strawberries topped a list of eight foods most linked to lower rates of cancer deaths amongst 1,000 elderly people.”

According to the Brain Research journal, free radical theory of aging predicts that reactive oxygen species are involved in age associated functional decline. Therefore antioxidants such as those contained in strawberries aid anti-aging effects. It’s delusional to think that increased antioxidant quantity alone has increased cancer fighting benefits. Rather, several complex strawberry compounds, regardless of dosage, together through a complex interaction  lower cancer rates. Similar properties reduce the occurrence of other health conditions like macular degeneration, high cholesterol, etc.

Thanks to recent agricultural advancements, strawberries are being genetically modified for targeted purposes. These goals can range from mass consumption, to quality experiments, to healthier, illness resistant crops, to even cheaper organic groceries. While strawberries in most developed countries are available year round, it’s often the seasonal, natural yield that provides optimal health benefits. Indeed, storage temperature, packaging, and sunlight exposure greatly impact the highly perishable fruit. Ripening time, along with consumption method also impact the healing properties. For example, cut or crushed berries have more anthocyanins than found in processed strawberries because these compounds are unstable at neutral pHs. In fact, if less processing is done to the fruit, they can last for days with intact medicinal properties.

Assess the Side Effects, the Risks, and the Limitations:
It’s an interesting discovery on strawberries that phenols attack all cells across the board, normal and abnormal. An article published in March 2009, in The International Journal of Oncology states “there is little evidence to assume that polyphenols from strawberry have a differential cytotoxic effect on tumour cells relative to comparable normal cells from the same tissue derived from the same patient.” Hence it could be suggested that polyphenols including anthocyanins and ellagitannin heighten a body’s cancer fighting and anti-aging abilities, but lower one’s innate survival abilities since all cells weaken. Thus, as in all foods, care must be taken to consume small portions of strawberries.

Additionally, there’s great concern for pesticides. Small traces of pesticides in drinking water add to strawberry harvests, unless exceptional care is taken for organic products. “According to the Environmental Working Group's 2009 report, "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides," strawberries are among the 12 foods on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found.”

Another noted point, while we might need an entire strawberry to gain maximum nutritional benefit, a recent research conducted by the US Department of Agriculture suggests that purified phenols such as anthocyanins are better for a more targeted approach involving obesity prevention, weight loss, etc. Thus supplements would be needed for focused therapies.

Finally, fruits where little to no processing is required for consumption, or that which can be canned or frozen, are at high risk of food borne or transferred illness such as Botulism and Hepatitis A. Therefore, one must be cautioned to eat washed, cleaned, healthy looking strawberry produce.

It’s important to remember that all foods are Mother Nature’s complex creations. While current strawberry research overwhelmingly focuses on phenols, there are other emerging benefits such as folate and UV reduction that are often correlated to good health. In the meantime it’s sufficient to say that in limited intake the pleasures of a strawberry outweigh its damage.

Citations:

-Whofoods.org: George Mateljan Foundation: World’s Healthiest foods, http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=32

-PubMed:

Int J Oncol. 2009 Mar; 34(3):777-86. Strawberry polyphenols are equally cytotoxic to tumourigenic and normal human breast and prostate cell lines. Weaver J, Briscoe T, Hou M, Goodman C, Kata S, Ross H, McDougall G, Stewart D, Riches A. Bute Medical School, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews KY16 9TS, Scotland, UK.

Brain Res. 2000 Jun 2;866(1-2):211-7. Antioxidant-rich diets improve cerebellar physiology and motor learning in aged rats. Bickford PC, Gould T, Briederick L, Chadman K, Pollock A, Young D, Shukitt-Hale B, Joseph J. Department of Pharmacology, Boston, MA, USA. paula.bickford@uchsc.edu

Mol Nutr Food Res. 2009 Nov; 53(11):1406-18. Purified berry anthocyanins but not whole berries normalize lipid parameters in mice fed an obesogenic high fat diet. Prior RL, Wu X, Gu L, Hager T, Hager A, Wilkes S, Howard L. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Little Rock, AR, USA.

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The copyright of the article, "Strawberry Health Benefits, Side Effects, and Risks," in "Interesting Health Articles & Facts" is held by Shahidah Parveen. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

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3 Responses to Strawberry Health Benefits, Side Effects, and Risks

  1. ZagatBuzz says:

    Mmmm strawberries...healthy and delicious!

  2. BronxBomber says:

    "Strawberry fields forever."

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