Why are strawberries said to prevent heart attacks and cardiovascular diseases such as hardening of the arteries? According to a recent study, strawberries activate protection protein to prevent cardiovascular disease.
Strawberries, the traditional summer treat associated with Wimbledon could be serving up some unexpected health benefits. Scientists at the University of Warwick have been studying the beneficial effects of strawberries on our cardiovascular health, particularly around how they prevent the development of heart disease and diabetes.
Professor Paul Thornalley from Warwick Medical School heads the team that discovered extracts from strawberries positively activate a protein in our bodies called ‘Nrf2’ which is shown to increase antioxidant and other protective activities. This protein works to decrease blood lipids and cholesterol, the very things which can lead to cardiovascular problems.
Eating strawberries has previously been found to counter post-meal blood glucose and low density lipoprotein, or ‘bad’ cholesterol and therefore decrease risk of diabetes and heart disease, but this is the first time that strawberry extracts have been proved to actively stimulate proteins that offer us protection against disease.
Professor Thornalley explained, according to the July 4, 2012 news release, Strawberries activate protection protein to prevent cardiovascular disease, “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. So don’t feel guilty about serving up strawberries and cream … although I’d suggest more strawberries and less or even no cream.”
Screening and mathematical modeling techniques developed at the University of Warwick can now take this research further to help identify the best varieties of strawberries, how they are served or processed and how many strawberries should be eaten for optimum health benefit.
The research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and is led by Professor Paul Thornalley with Dr Naila Rabbani (Medical School), Dr Guy Barker (Life Sciences) and Professor David Rand (Systems Biology). Professor 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.
Strawberries, blueberries may cut heart attack risk in women
Eating three or more servings of blueberries and strawberries per week may help women reduce their risk of a heart attack by as much as one-third, researchers reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. (American Heart Association Rapid Access Journal Report).
Blueberries and strawberries contain high levels of naturally occurring compounds called dietary flavonoids, also found in grapes and wine, blackberries, eggplant, and other fruits and vegetables. A specific sub-class of flavonoids, called anthocyanins, may help dilate arteries, counter the buildup of plaque and provide other cardiovascular benefits, according to the study.
“Blueberries and strawberries can easily be incorporated into what women eat every week,” said Eric Rimm D.Sc., senior author and Associate Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, according to the January 14, 2013 news release, Strawberries, blueberries may cut heart attack risk in women. “This simple dietary change could have a significant impact on prevention efforts.”
Blueberries and strawberries were part of this analysis simply because they are the most-eaten berries in the United States. So it’s possible that other foods could produce the same results, researchers explained in the news release. Scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health in the United States and the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom conducted a prospective study among 93,600 women ages 25 to 42 who were registered with the Nurses’ Health Study II. The women completed questionnaires about their diet every four years for 18 years.
During the study, 405 heart attacks occurred. Women who ate the most blueberries and strawberries had a 32-percent reduction in their risk of heart attack compared to women who ate the berries once a month or less – even in women who otherwise ate a diet rich in other fruits and vegetables.
“We have shown that even at an early age, eating more of these fruits may reduce risk of a heart attack later in life,” said Aedín Cassidy, Ph.D., lead author and head of the Department of Nutrition at Norwich Medical School of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, United Kingdom, according to the news release.
The findings were independent of other risk factors, such as age, high blood pressure, family history of heart attack, body mass, exercise, smoking, caffeine or alcohol intake.
The American Heart Association supports eating berries as part of an overall balanced diet that also includes other fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products. Eating a variety of foods is the best way to get the right amounts of nutrients.
Other co-authors are Kenneth J. Mukamal, M.D.; Lydia Liu, M.Sc.; Mary Franz, M.Sc. and A. Heather Eliassen, Sc.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript. The National Institutes of Health and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council of the United Kingdom funded the study. Visit the American Heart Association’s nutrition center for more information about healthy eating.
Why is it so difficult to find organic strawberries in many supermarkets?
Some local stores do carry organic frozen strawberries. But from where do the frozen organic strawberries originate? How long have they been frozen? Celery and strawberries are two of the most highly contaminated plant foods, unless they’re organic. Some Sacramento supermarkets carry fresh organic strawberries when they’re in season and organic celery more often, usually originating from California farms.
Strawberries and celery (that are not organic) compete for the most contaminated list. On June 3, 2010, the Los Angeles Times blog reported that celery now tops the list of produce most contaminated by pesticides, according to the 2010 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce released early in June 2010 by the Environmental Working Group.
To find local organic produce, check out the local Whole Foods Market in Sacramento and the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. Sometimes organic strawberries that you see in a variety of Sacramento food stores aren’t local, but imported, especially when out of season. Some Sacramento supermarkets do have organic strawberries.
The catch-22 is the strawberries may not be local. For example, in some supermarkets, the organic frozen strawberries may be coming from a foreign country. With blueberries, in some Sacramento supermarkets, the packages are marked with a product from Chile stamps, while other packages that look exactly like the ones stamped as a product of Canada are stamped with signs that read, a product of Chile. Strawberries can come from Mexico or other areas. Part of the issue is seasonal.
If the strawberries aren’t organic, they’re usually put on the “dirty dozen” list of fruits containing higher amounts of pesticides
Rounding out the “dirty dozen” of 49 fruits and vegetables tested are strawberries, apples, domestically grown blueberries, nectarines, sweet bell peppers, spinach, kale/collard greens, cherries, potatoes and imported grapes. Topping the “clean 15” are onions, avocados, frozen sweet corn, pineapples, mangos and sweet peas.
Check out the article, The 10 Most Important Foods to Buy Organic. That article also notes pertaining to strawberries that, “The fresh, sweet strawberries you buy in the supermarket are the single most heavily contaminated fruit or vegetable in the U.S., according to another 1993 EWG study.” The article wasn’t referring to local organic strawberries.
That’s one more reason to buy organic strawberries or grow them yourself in your backyard. The article reports the following information, “Seventy percent of all strawberries tested contained at least one pesticide, and 36 percent contained two or more. Strawberries are also laced with endocrine disruptors.”
Frozen strawberries can be bought organic, but the flavor is sometimes less than you feel on your tongue with fresh strawberries. That same article reports, “According to Consumer Union’s Pest Management at the Crossroads, strawberries can receive a dose of 500 pounds of pesticides per acre. Out-of-season strawberries are the most likely to have been imported, possibly from a country with less-stringent pesticide regulations. Organic brands include Golden River Farms, Cascadian Farms and Boulder Fruit Express.”
But don’t eat too many strawberries. They can stimulate your thyroid too much if you wolf them down in large amounts. Portion size is important. So eat a little at a time.
What’s in strawberries that stabilizes resveratrol in your body? How Strawberries Can Help
A rare flavonoid called fisetin is found only in tiny quantities in the world of plants. What fisetin does in your system is to maintain levels of glutathione, which is the primary antioxidant “internal to most cells in the body, in the presence of oxidative stress,” according to the article, “You Are Eating More Calories Than You Think – Life Extension,” (page 36) published in the July 2010 issue of Life Extension magazine.
Fisetin is a high-ranking flavonoid that prevents DNA damage, being studied as a potentially effective cancer-preventing agent, according to the Life Extension magazine article. Basically, what fisetin does is use its capacity to ward off “age-related cognitive decline.”
Studies are being done on how fisetin modulates the brain’s nerve cell pathways. Also, fesetin helps to mimic caloric restriction. How fisetin stabilizes resveratrol is by protecting it from your liver. There are metabolic enzymes in your liver and digestive system that break down any supplements you take. But it’s the fisetin that shields the resveratrol from being broken down by your liver.
That’s how fisetin may increase the amount of resveratrol you get in your bloodstream. Otherwise, resveratrol has a very short half-life in your body, according to the Life Extension magazine article. The strawberries you buy or grow in Sacramento need to be free from pesticide contamination. See the Food News.org article, “The Dirty Dozen” at the website, Methodology | Environmental Working Group.
The site lists the 12 most contaminated foods, mostly fruits, and the 15 cleanest foods, mostly vegetables and some melons. Fewer than 10 percent of pineapple, mango, and avocado samples showed detectable, and fewer than one percent of samples had more than one pesticide residue. Also check out the article, Hepatitis A and Mexican Strawberries.
Foods most affected by pesticides and insecticides
The article, The Foods That Are Most Affected by Pesticides, reports that “strawberries are the most contaminated in the United States. According to a 1995 EWG study, strawberries are the most contaminated fruit in the United States. A single acre of strawberries can receive 500 pounds of pesticides. Worse, in the off-season, strawberries are brought in from outside the country where pesticide restrictions are even more lenient.
Organic is important because children are at a heightened risk from pesticides, because they eat more food relative to their body weight and because their nervous systems are still developing. And according to the National Research Council, children eat more fresh fruit than adults, which can expose them to multiple pesticides.
Strawberries and domestic blueberries each had 13 pesticides detected on a single sample. Peaches and apples were second, with 9 pesticides on one sample. More than 96 percent of peaches tested positive for pesticides, followed by nectarines (95.1 percent) and apples (93.6 percent).
California has the opportunity to prevent release of a new, carcinogenic and highly toxic pesticide into communities and into the environment
California can signal its priority for safe, clean and sustainable strawberry production – a powerful statement from the nation’s leading strawberry producing state. If you’re worried about commercial (not organic) strawberries being one of the most contaminated berries listed under the dirty dozen of pesticide-laden fruits found in most supermarkets, you should know that 87% of the nation’s strawberries came from California in 2007.
California can also preserve scientific integrity and transparency in its regulatory decision-making. The Pesticide Action Network is waiting for the California Department of Pesticide Regulation to signal its commitment to health, the environment and rigorous science with its decision on methyl iodide.
For further information, check out the website of the Fresno-based California Grape & Tree Fruit League. The problem with the vegetable and fruit farmers is that they don’t have another commercial product that does the same job. So you might turn to the website of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Ask yourself why has the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved methyl iodide? And why have most of the states approved it? Are they blindsided by not having a substitute that’s safer?
The only apparent committee that is not blindsided early on in their research is the eight-member committee reviewing the chemical for use in California. Those experts finally reached the conclusion that the risk of using methyl iodide, a known carcinogen, is too great. They were probably the only group that took into consideration the health issues of the workers whose protections are commonly “inappropriate, inadequate or inaccessible,” according to the Sacramento Bee article.
Does anyone care about human to pesticide exposure of the fruit and vegetable pickers?
None of them are going to don space suits or biohazard gear to pick vegetables and fruits, and should they come down with cancer or lung lesions or thyroid issues, where are they going to get money to pay for health care? Do they know the survival rate for thyroid cancers and lung lesions, the human suffering? And who’s going to warn them of the potent toxicity of methyl iodide?
The experts who take these issues into consideration usually are found in academic departments of environmental health sciences institutes at universities. The average fruit and vegetable gleaner or picker isn’t about to walk into a department of environmental health sciences to ask what pesticides are on the plants being harvested without adequate controls, gear, or protective clothing. Methyl iodide can cause thyroid cancer, respiratory tract lesions and neurological effects in laboratory animals. But who will be telling you about those facts?
Why use fumigants?
Farmers say it’s their most effective tool to get rid of bugs, diseases, and weeds in soil. For years, strawberries have been labeled one of the most contaminated berries you can eat (unless they’re organic). It’s not what’s in the fruit as far as the nutrients. It’s about what’s not in the fruit (pesticides) that you should be concerned with because fumigants are widely used in the strawberry industry, commercial nurseries, and in the planting of vines and new trees.
Unless you grow your own strawberries in your yard, or are sure the fruit you eat is really organic, you can’t control what’s in your food. But who is going to tell farmers in California they have commercial alternatives if they are not in the burgeoning “green industry renaissance?”
Why are farmers rejecting the alternatives such as telone or metam sodium, if you’re talking commercial fumigants. Why is it only methyl bromide that gives the farmers the results they demand? On one side you have scientists and environmentalists saying methyl bromide is too dangerous to put on fruit and vegetables, that is food.
What will the decision be regarding this toxic chemical, to rebuff science? To follow the money? To support the manufacturers? To listen to the average consumer and look for safe, long-term answers? Or the alternative, to go with big industry for the sake of big money?
The community does have one loophole left, to perhaps sue the state if methyl iodide is chosen over the decision to protect California food crops from carcinogenic toxins in certain pesticides. But if you talk to lawyers, where do they go first to get more information? Try the Pesticide Action Network North America. Check out the network’s pesticide database.
Look at the website of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation Home Page. There are supporters of the fumigant. The supporters hope the Dept. of Pesticide Regulation will register the chemical so it can be sprayed on vegetables and fruits in California. Sure, there are two sides to every story, current event, or issue.
You’ll hear the same story from most of the supporters of the chemical. They’ll tell you the usual talk that everything is toxic at some level, that toxicity all depends upon the dosage and concentration–of any chemical, or anything else. Check out the website of the California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers in Sacramento.
The California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers is a professional organization dedicated to the promotion and advancement of the nursery industry for its members and the public it serves, according to its website. CANGC is a driving force behind California’s lawn an garden industry.
Unlike many other industries, the nursery business is not dominated by a handful of players. It is comprised of hundreds of entrepreneurs, in the business because of horticulture. CANGC is the forum for those in the horticultural field to exchange information and generate support for marketing, research and legislative and regulatory advocacy.
So if you’re a consumer of California fruit and vegetables as you find in your local markets, think about who supports the chemical and who doesn’t support the chemical you may want banned. They have to make a living too, and you can buy all types of weed killers, fumigants, and pesticides in many different nurseries and garden centers all over the state.
How many various garden centers are organic or sell organic pesticides?
Some do. But does it bring in the money? On a small scale, you can use non-toxic insecticides on your own vegetable garden in your yard. Who’s making money? That’s the question to ask, here in the midst of this new green industry revolution that’s supposed to create a lot of new jobs.
How supporters are thinking of making the toxic chemical safer is by printing on the label directions on how to use soil fumigants. How do you protect farmers or anyone from exceeding the dose of methyl iodide on each piece of fruit or strawberry? Do most farmers even read the labels on fumigants that closely to measure which dosage is correct?
Will farmers use methyl iodide in small quantities? Will they really reduce the amount used in the strawberry fields or other vegetable and fruit-growing areas? And will companies continue to require fumigant applicators to take special training? How many have had training? Do they really always follow the directions?
Why are so many experts ignoring scientific research?
Why has methyl iodide gained registration from the federal EPA back in 2007? The fumigant, which the EPA allows for use with restrictions, also has been approved for use by 47 states. But do farmers or their hired help actually follow those restrictions?
Is this an issue between conservatives and liberals? Or is it just about scientists worrying that farmers or their temporary or hired help won’t follow the restrictions on the chemical usage, whether they are trained or not?
Is the issue, rather about environmentalists browbeating farmers? Or is it really that the average consumer hopes farmers will someday be pesticide-free and use other methods of getting rid of bugs on the plants.
So far it’s the organic farmers providing the types of foods that consumers demand. But a lot of consumers can’t afford organic food unless they grow it themselves. But where can you grow food in a small apartment? Try urban community vegetable and fruit gardens and slow food suggestions.
Will toxic fumigants always be on commercial vegetables? And if so, what can the average consumer on a tight budget do about it? Farmers say they won’t be sustainable if they go pesticide-free. Is it about the scale? And what can you legally do to make food safer? Sign petitions? Volunteer for lobbying? Grow your own vegetables? Think about it, and consider the safer choice.