Strawberry Consumption Associated With C-Reactive Protein Among Women

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Strawberries are not only delicious and nutrient-rich, new research from Harvard Medical School found that they may offer cardiovascular disease protection. The new study foundthat those who reported eating the most strawberries experienced lower blood levels of C-reactive protein, a biomarker for inflammation in the blood vessels.

Howard Sesso, ScD and colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health reported their findings in the August issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Using dietary intake records of approximately 27,000 of the women who participated in the decade-long Women's Health Study, Sesso looked at levels of strawberry consumption and several risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The findings revealed that women who ate the most strawberries -- two or more servings per week -- compared to those who reported eating none in the past month, were 14 percent less likely to have elevated C-reactive protein levels.

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C-reactive protein or CRP is a blood biomarker that signals the presence of inflammation in the body. Elevated levels of CRP have been shown in multiple studies to be a potentially good predictor of risk for both heart disease and stroke, as it is generally a signal of atherosclerosis. As a result, The Centers for Disease Control and American Heart Association have established guidelines suggesting that blood levels of CRP higher than 3 mg/L may be important in the risk stratification and prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Researchers found that those women who had higher strawberry intakes were also more likely to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle. On average, women in the highest strawberry intake group ate about twice as many servings of fruits and vegetables every day as did women in the lowest intake group. Not surprisingly, they had much higher average intakes of important heart-healthy nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, potassium and folate. They were also most likely to be non-smokers and get daily physical activity. In addition, the high strawberry consumers had modestly lower levels of both total and LDL cholesterol, the so-called "bad" cholesterol.

"Higher intakes of fruits and vegetables have consistently been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Strawberries are a rich source of several key nutrients and phytonutrients that may play a role in protecting heart health. This is the first study to show that strawberries may help reduce the likelihood of having elevated CRP levels in the blood. While more research is needed, this study helps provide more evidence that eating fruits and vegetables will help reduce risk for cardiovascular disease," said Sesso.

Strawberries are a powerhouse of nutrients and antioxidants that have been shown in other studies to help reduce risk factors for heart disease and some types of cancer. Eighty-eight percent of the nation's supply of strawberries comes from California.

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