Strawberry Extract Protects Against UVA Rays

The experiment shows that strawberry extract added to skin cell cultures acts as a protector against UVA rays.

An experiment has shown that strawberry extract added to skin cell cultures acts as a protector against ultraviolet radiation as well as increasing its viability and reducing damage to DNA. Developed by a team of Italian and Spanish researchers, the study opens the door to the creation of photoprotective cream made from strawberries.

“We have verified the protecting effect of strawberry extract against damage to skins cells caused by UVA rays,” as explained to SINC by Maurizio Battino, researcher at the Università Politecnica delle Marche in Italy and lead author of the jointly Spanish and Italian study. The results are published in the ‘Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry‘.

The team prepared human skin cell cultures (fibroblasts) and added strawberry extract in different concentrations (0.05, 0.25 and 0.5 mg/ml), the only exception being the control extract. Using ultraviolet light, the samples were then exposed to a dose “equivalent to 90 minutes of midday summer sun in the French Riviera.”

Data confirm that the strawberry extract, especially at a concentration of 0.5 mg/ml, displays photoprotective properties in those fibroblasts exposed to UVA radiation, it increases cell survival and viability and decreases damage in the DNA when compared with control cells.

“These aspects are of great importance as they provide protection for cell lines subject to conditions that can provoke cancer and other skin-related inflammatory and degenerative illnesses,” outlines Battino.

The researcher recognises that this is the “first step in determining the beneficial effects of strawberries in our diet or as a possible compound source for ‘food integrators’ or cosmetics for instance.”

The redness of anthocyanins

But what molecules give strawberries their photoprotective properties? Scientists suspect that it could be the anthocyanins, which are pigments that give leaves, flowers and fruits their red colour. Analyses have confirmed that extracts are rich in such substances.

“These compounds have important anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-tumour properties and are capable of modulating enzymatic processes,” explains another of the authors, Sara Tulipani from the University of Barcelona. She adds that “we have not yet found a direct relationship between their presence and photoprotective properties.”

“At the moment the results act as the basis for future studies evaluating the ‘bioavailability’ and ‘bioactivity’ of anthocyanins in the dermis and epidermis layers of the human skin, whether by adding them to formulations for external use or by ingesting the fruit itself,” states Tulipani.

Also made up of researchers from the Universities of Salamanca and Granada, in its previous works the team had already demonstrated that strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa) strengthen the red bloods cells and protect the stomach from the effects of alcohol.

 

Reference

Giampieri F, Alvarez-Suarez JM, Tulipani S, Gonzàles-Paramàs AM, Santos-Buelga C, Bompadre S, Quiles JL, Mezzetti B, Battino M. Photoprotective Potential of Strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa) Extract against UV-A Irradiation Damage on Human Fibroblasts. Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry 2012; 60 (9): 2322-7.

 

Eating flavonoids protects men against Parkinson’s disease

Men who eat flavonoid-rich foods such as berries, tea, apples and red wine significantly reduce their risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, according to new research by Harvard University and the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Published April 4 in the journal Neurology®, the findings add to the growing body of evidence that regular consumption of some flavonoids can have a marked effect on human health. Recent studies have shown that these compounds can offer protection against a wide range of diseases including heart disease, hypertension, some cancers and dementia.

This latest study is the first study in humans to show that flavonoids can protect neurons against diseases of the brain such as Parkinson’s.

Around 130,000 men and women took part in the research. More than 800 had developed Parkinson’s disease within 20 years of follow-up. After a detailed analysis of their diets and adjusting for age and lifestyle, male participants who ate the most flavonoids were shown to be 40 per cent less likely to develop the disease than those who ate the least. No similar link was found for total flavonoid intake in women.

The research was led by Dr Xiang Gao of Harvard School of Public Health in collaboration with Prof Aedin Cassidy of the Department of Nutrition, Norwich Medical School at UEA.

“These exciting findings provide further confirmation that regular consumption of flavonoids can have potential health benefits,” said Prof Cassidy.

“This is the first study in humans to look at the associations between the range of flavonoids in the diet and the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and our findings suggest that a sub-class of flavonoids called anthocyanins may have neuroprotective effects.”

Prof Gao said: “Interestingly, anthocyanins and berry fruits, which are rich in anthocyanins, seem to be associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease in pooled analyses. Participants who consumed one or more portions of berry fruits each week were around 25 per cent less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease, relative to those who did not eat berry fruits. Given the other potential health effects of berry fruits, such as lowering risk of hypertension as reported in our previous studies, it is good to regularly add these fruits to your diet.”

Flavonoids are a group of naturally occurring, bioactive compunds found in many plant-based foods and drinks. In this study the main protective effect was from higher intake of anthocyanins, which are present in berries and other fruits and vegetables including aubergines, blackcurrants and blackberries. Those who consumed the most anthocyanins had a 24 per cent reduction in risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and strawberries and blueberries were the top two sources in the US diet.

The findings must now be confirmed by other large epidemiological studies and clinical trials.

Parkinson’s disease is a progresssive neurological condition affecting one in 500 people, which equates to 127,000 people in the UK. There are few effective drug therapies available.

Dr Kieran Breen, director of research at Parkinson’s UK said: “This study raises lots of interesting questions about how diet may influence our risk of Parkinson’s and we welcome any new research that could potentially lead to prevention.

“While these new results look interesting there are still a lot of questions to answer and much more research to do before we really know how important diet might be for people with Parkinson’s.”

 

Reference

Gao X, Cassidy A, Schwarzschild MA, Rimm EB, Ascherio A. Habitual intake of dietary flavonoids and risk of Parkinson disease. Neurology, 2012 DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e31824f7fc4

 

Latin American Blueberries Found To Be ‘Extreme Superfruits’

Scientists discover high levels of disease-fighting antioxidants in two species of neotropical blueberries:

One of the treats of summer—fresh, antioxidant-rich blueberries—has new competition for the title of “superfruit.”

But at least the contenders are keeping the title in the family.

Researchers have found that two species of wild blueberries native to the tropical regions of Central and South America—the New World tropics, or Neotropics—contain two to four times more antioxidants than the blueberries sold in U.S. markets.

This finding is the result of an analysis of the compounds contained in neotropical blueberries grown at The New York Botanical Garden.

The study was conducted by Professor Edward Kennelly, a biologist at Lehman College in the Bronx who is an expert in medicinal plants, and Paola Pedraza, Ph.D., a botanist at The New York Botanical Garden whose specialties include South American blueberry species.

“No one had looked at this,” Dr. Pedraza said. “The results are very promising.”

For their study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the scientists examined five species of neotropical blueberries. The two species that had the highest amounts of antioxidants were Cavendishia grandifolia and Anthopterus wardii.

“We consider these two species of neotropical blueberries to be extreme superfruits with great potential to benefit human health,” Dr. Kennelly said.

Antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables have been associated with lower incidence of some chronic diseases and may help protect against heart disease, inflammatory ailments such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and even cancer.

Of the five neotropical blueberry species used in the study, four came from the Nolen Greenhouses for Living Collections and the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at The New York Botanical Garden. One came from the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Although these blueberries are wild species that are not currently commercially available, the scientists believe that they have the potential to become a popular food item or health supplement if their high antioxidant content becomes better known.

“I think it’s just a matter of time until people start working on making them more available,” Dr. Pedraza said.

More than 600 neotropical species are related to the “highbush” blueberries common to the American market. Several of them, including the two most promising species in Drs. Kennelly and Pedraza’s study, are native to the high-elevation forests of the Andes Mountains, one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world.

The discovery that these blueberries have potential benefits for humans underscores the importance of preserving Earth’s biodiversity, Pedraza said.

“There are so many things out there that could have an impact on our lives,” she said. “That’s why we should be worried about conservation in our country and in other countries because you never know when good things will come to light.”

Blueberries Help Lab Rats Build Strong Bones

Compounds in blueberries might turn out to have a powerful effect on formation of strong, healthy bones, if results from studies with laboratory rats turn out to hold true for humans. Jin-Ran Chen and his colleagues are exploring this idea in research funded by the US Department of Agriculture at the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center in Little Rock.

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