Boosting Brain Health With Strawberries

  • Maryam Saad M.Sc. degree in Biochemistry - Faculty of Science, Alexandria University, Egypt/li>
  • Julia Ambrozy Biomedical Science BSc 2020-2023 Global Health MSc 2023-2024

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The brain is the most important and complex organ in our body, and it is responsible for various vital functions including vision, movement, memory, feeling, and consciousness. It also regulates other organs' functions. Maintaining brain health through a diet approach is one of the most effective ways to improve our brain health and overall well-being, and incorporating nutrient-rich foods like strawberries into our diet can make a significant difference.

Why is our brain the most susceptible organ to oxidative stress?

Our brain weighs about 1400 g and is composed of around 86 billion neurons. It consumes a high amount of oxygen, approximately 20% of the total oxygen consumed by our bodies. Furthermore, it contains high lipid content. For those reasons, our brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is linked to diverse neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, and Parkinson's disease, and is involved in neuropsychiatric disorders, including anxiety disorders and depression. Therefore, incorporating antioxidants-containing food in our diet could protect us from such diseases.1

What are strawberries and what are their beneficial content?

Strawberry is a native Mediterranean species that is also cultivated in other regions of Eastern Europe. It is a known health-promoting food due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties; those properties are owed to the presence of abundant antioxidants like ellagic acid and flavonoids including anthocyanins and extremely high content of vitamin C. It may contribute to regulating blood sugar levels as it is a fiber-rich food.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C Is a water-soluble and multi-function vitamin. It is a potent antioxidant due to its ability to neutralize harmful free radicals that are causing oxidative stress. It stimulates collagen production (a protein that forms many tissues including the brain), and some neurotransmitters like catecholamines. It also improves the absorption of iron. In the brain, it plays a vital role in neural cell formation. In a study published in 2017, the cognitively intact groups of participants demonstrated higher mean vitamin C concentrations compared to cognitively impaired participants2

Ellagic acid

Ellagic acid is a dietary polyphenol with multipurpose therapeutic properties; one of them is its antioxidant activity, which makes it a neuroprotective agent. A review article published in July 2021 in Advances in Nutrition, confirms that ellagic acid is a potent neuroprotective agent and has a therapeutic potential against neural injury associated with Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease3.

Anthocyanin

Anthocyanin is a naturally occurring polyphenol known as a potent neuroprotective agent due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Neuroinflammation is the pivotal cause of several neurological disorders. A review article published in November 2021 in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences discussed the importance and the applicability of anthocyanin as a neuroprotective agent in the modulation of neuroinflammation in several neuropathological conditions. It was found that it contributes to the regulation of the microbiota-gut-brain axis, promotes the proliferation of beneficial bacteria, contributes to the elimination of pathogenic bacteria, and modulates inflammatory signaling pathways elicited by Peripheral inflammatory cells.4

Folate

Folate also known as vitamin B9 helps preserve cognitive function in adults with mild cognitive impairment and may slow the onset of dementia like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.5

Supporting studies

A study was conducted at San Diego State University, funded by the California Strawberry Commission, and published in Current Developments in Nutrition in July 2023 to assess the antioxidant capacities of polyphenolic compounds in strawberries in the improvement of cognitive function in healthy aging adults.

The study was a randomized, crossover, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial on 35 healthy older adults (17 women, 18 men, age 72 ± 6 years, BMI 26.4 ± 3.9 kg/m2) who consumed 26 grams of freeze-dried strawberry powder and a control powder for control group daily for 8 weeks. The cognition was measured according to NIH guidelines, blood pressure, and waist circumference.

The results demonstrated an increase in cognitive processing speed in the strawberry consumption group. Furthermore, total antioxidant capacity showed a significant decrease in the control group and a significant increase in total antioxidant capacity in the strawberry consumption group. Serum triglycerides, blood pressure, and waist circumference decreased significantly in the control group compared to the strawberry consuming group.

The study elucidated that daily consumption of 26 grams of freeze-dried strawberry powder improves cognitive processing speed, increases total antioxidant capacity, potentially promotes cognitive function, lowers blood pressure, and improves cardiovascular risk factors.6 

Another study called the Nurses’ Health Study published in the Annals of Neurology journal; the cognitive functions were measured for 16,010 participants aged ≥70 years over six years. The participants who incorporated greater intakes of blueberries and strawberries showed a slower rate of cognitive decline.7

Also, in a study named Rush Memory and Aging Project; 925 participants were dementia-free at baseline aged 58–98 years and had at least two annual neurological evaluations for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia. Participants who ate strawberries were 34% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.8

Healthy strawberry recipes

Strawberries are a delicious fruit; you can eat them on their own. Experts recommend a daily dose of about eight large strawberries - equal to one cup of fruit, which will give you the needed daily dose of vitamin C. It is a seasonal fruit, so think about freezing them (rinse them, dry them thoroughly with paper towels, and put them in the freezer for up to 1 year). It is also versatile, and it can be added to sweet and savory dishes.

Here are some delicious suggestions:

Add them to your breakfast bowl

Add strawberries to your cereal bowl with milk and topped with nut butter like Cashew or pistachio, you may add honey or maple syrup.

Elevate your salad with strawberries

Salad is one of the healthiest dishes, you can be creative and there are no rules. For our recipe, the main two gems are strawberries and spinach. Strawberry is known for its high vitamin C content that promotes the absorption of iron found in spinach. Add chicken for protein and some walnuts and olive oil for healthy fatty acids and to boost the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.

What a snack!

Chop eight strawberries and add them to a cup of ground walnuts, two small teaspoons of chia seeds, and 2 large teaspoons of peanut butter. Mix the ingredients well till you form a paste. Reform the paste to the shape you like and put it in the freezer for four hours, and now your snack is ready!

A refreshing smoothie

In the blender, add eight strawberries, a banana, and a cup of coconut milk, blend, blend, blend, blend, and then a yummy smoothie.

Summary

To sum up,

  • A healthy diet is considered a safe yet effective approach for the treatment, improvement, management, or prevention of diseases
  • Strawberries are a delicious and nutritious fruit that can be beneficial for brain health along with a healthy diet
  • Strawberries are considered a superfood due to their nutrient-rich content. It is packed with high antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals content including vitamin C content, folate, ellagic acid, anthocyanins, and others
  • Due to high oxygen consumption and lipid-rich content in our brain, it is susceptible to oxidative stress and inflammation, the leading causes of many neurological disorders, so eating nutritious fruit full of antioxidants like strawberries has been linked to improvement, prevention, and treatment of some neurological conditions, as studies proved strawberries consumption
  • Improve cognitive function: Strawberries may improve cognitive function by reducing inflammation and improving blood flow to the brain
  • Protect against age-related decline and reduce the risk of dementia: Strawberries may help to protect the brain from age-related decline by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress
  • Experts recommend eating a serving of 8 strawberries a day based on clinical research to potentially improve heart and brain health, reduce the risk of some cancers, and improve the management of type 2 diabetes
  • 8 strawberries a day are equal to one cup of fruit, giving you the daily dose of vitamin C and the nutrients you need in only 33 kcal

References

  • Cobley JN, Fiorello ML, Bailey DM. 13 reasons why the brain is susceptible to oxidative stress. Redox Biology [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2024 Jan 8]; 15:490–503. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S2213231718300041.
  • Travica N, Ried K, Sali A, Scholey A, Hudson I, Pipingas A. Vitamin C Status and Cognitive Function: A Systematic Review. Nutrients [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2024 Jan 8]; 9(9):960. Available from: http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/9/9/960.
  • Gupta A, Singh AK, Kumar R, Jamieson S, Pandey AK, Bishayee A. Neuroprotective Potential of Ellagic Acid: A Critical Review. Advances in Nutrition [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2024 Jan 8]; 12(4):1211–38. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S2161831322001569.
  • Henriques JF, Serra D, Dinis TCP, Almeida LM. The Anti-Neuroinflammatory Role of Anthocyanins and Their Metabolites for the Prevention and Treatment of Brain Disorders. IJMS [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2024 Jan 8]; 21(22):8653. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/21/22/8653.
  • Ma F, Li Q, Zhou X, Zhao J, Song A, Li W, et al. Effects of folic acid supplementation on cognitive function and Aβ-related biomarkers in mild cognitive impairment: a randomized controlled trial. Eur J Nutr [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2024 Jan 8]; 58(1):345–56. Available from: http://link.springer.com/10.1007/s00394-017-1598-5.
  • Tsang M, Delaney K, Kern M, Jason N, Hong MY, Liu C, et al. P23-074-23 The Impact of Strawberries on Cognition and Cardiovascular Health of Older Healthy Adults: A Randomized, Crossover, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Current Developments in Nutrition [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2024 Jan 8]; 7:100183. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S2475299123249082.
  • Devore EE, Kang JH, Breteler MMB, Grodstein F. Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Annals of Neurology [Internet]. 2012 [cited 2024 Jan 8]; 72(1):135–43. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ana.23594.
  • Agarwal P, Holland TM, Wang Y, Bennett DA, Morris MC. Association of Strawberries and Anthocyanidin Intake with Alzheimer’s Dementia Risk. Nutrients [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2024 Jan 8]; 11(12):3060. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/12/3060.

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Maryam Saad

M.Sc. degree in Biochemistry - Faculty of Science, Alexandria University, Egypt

Armed with a Master's in Biochemistry from Alexandria University, Maryam brings a wealth of experience spanning diverse scientific avenues. Over five years as a Medical Laboratory Scientist, she honed expertise in clinical biochemistry, mastering molecular biology techniques and research lab management. Analytical prowess blossomed during a stint as an analytical chemist, while the intricacies of quality assurance were unveiled during a later role as quality assurance administrator. Beyond the confines of the lab, Maryam thrives in collaboration and communication. The co-founding of an educational Facebook page showcases a passion for knowledge sharing and community building. This translates into proven abilities in project management, data analysis, and problem
solving, further enhanced by exceptional scientific writing and translation skills. Driven by a thirst for innovation and a commitment to excellence, Maryam stands poised to bridge the gap between scientific expertise and impactful solutions.

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