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Do Strawberries Help or Hurt Arthritis?

Some studies have shown that eating berries may slow inflammation and also the rate of mental decline.

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Do Strawberries Help or Hurt Arthritis?
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Overview

Berries continue to enjoy a good reputation in health circles. Clinical studies have shown that diets containing an abundance of flavonoids -- a broad class of plant pigments -- are associated with reduced levels of inflammation. These natural compounds are found in especially high concentrations in berries.

Heart disease, certain cancers, and mental decline are all associated with high levels of inflammatory metabolites in the body. These compounds can be measured in blood tests, and flavonoids have been proven to reduce these markers of inflammation.

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The strawberry eaters were 14 percent less likely to have elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a sign of inflammation. CRP levels may also spike in cases of rheumatoid arthritis.

- Harvard School of Public Health

Research on Strawberries

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health studied the impact of strawberries on inflammation. They studied women who ate 16 or more fresh or frozen strawberries per week, and compared those women to others who didn’t eat any strawberries at all. They found that the strawberry eaters were 14 percent less likely to have elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a sign of inflammation. CRP levels may also spike in cases of rheumatoid arthritis.

A more recent study by researchers at Harvard used data from the Nurses’ Health Study. This large study group includes 121,700 female registered nurses between the ages of 30 and 55, who completed health and lifestyle questionnaires beginning in 1976.

Between 1995 and 2001, researchers conducted tests on memory every two years in 16,010 of these subjects over the age of 70. They found that increased consumption of blueberries and strawberries was associated with a slower rate of memory decline -- up to two and a half years of sustained cognition. The results were attributed to a greater intake of flavonoids.

Anti-Inflammatory Abilities of Berries

Both of these studies looked at the connection between eating berries and heart disease, as well as cognitive decline. But the results also suggest that berries’ effect on your inflammatory response may slow the onset of chronic diseases associated with inflammation, including arthritis.

Strawberries, in particular, are also an excellent source of vitamin C, which is important for maintaining the body’s collagen and connective tissues.

In a recent study of vitamin C consumption and arthritis, researchers looked at a group of 1,023 men and women aged 40 based on their consumption of vitamin C. The study found that those who ate a diet that contained the highest amount of the vitamin were 11 percent less likely to be diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knees than those with the least amount.

The Bottom Line

It’s still not clear whether strawberries can help with arthritis inflammation. While more evidence is gathered, there’s probably no harm in increasing your berry consumption, given their high concentration of nutrients. You should always discuss your dietary plans with your doctor or a professional nutritionist; your doctor will be able to help you best if he or she knows the full range of treatment options you are trying, even those as simple as eating more strawberries.

About the Author

Eilender is a college lecturer and health sciences writer based in New Jersey.

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Resources

  • Devore, E., Kang, J., Breteler, M. and Grodstein, F. (2012). Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Ann Neurol., 72: 135–143.
  • Part, B. (n.d.). Health Benefits of Strawberries. Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved October 2, 2012
  • Peregoy J., and Wilder F. The effects of vitamin C supplementation on incident and progressive knee osteoarthritis: a longitudinal study. Public Health Nutr. 2011 Apr;14(4):709-15.
  • Sesso H., Gaziano J., Jenkins D., Buring, J. Strawberries and CVD in women. J Am Coll Nutr. 2007 Aug;26(4):303-10.
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