According to a new study, eating less than one cup of strawberries a day could improve the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease. The inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affects millions of people worldwide. There are two main types: ulcerative colitis, in which inflammation is concentrated in the rectum and colon; and Crohn’s disease, which can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include stomach pain and cramping, diarrhea, weight loss, rectal bleeding, anemia and ulcers. Along with inflammation of the intestine, people with IBD tend to have an increase in the number of harmful intestinal bacteria and a decrease in the levels of “good” bacteria.
The inflammation chronic bowel also associated with an increased risk of intestinal cancer in the long term. The worrying thing is that, worldwide, the prevalence of IBD seems to be increasing. Dr. Hang Xiao – who led the recent study – explains why IBD could be on the rise, saying: « The sedentary lifestyle and eating habits of many people in this country – diets high in sugar, high in animal fats, but low in fiber – can promote inflammation of the colon and increase the risk of IBD . ” Diet has a significant role both in the risk of developing IBD and in the management of symptoms. However, the complex nature of the disease, as well as the lack of well-designed nutritional studies, make it difficult to draw strong conclusions. Recently, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst focused on a simple and very specific dietary intervention: strawberries.
Strawberries and Inflammation:
In recent years, the potential health benefits of strawberries have been investigated by several researchers. For example, the anti-inflammatory potential of strawberry has been studied in people with abdominal obesity. The potential of strawberries to relieve the pain of osteoarthritis in people with obesity has also been tested. Other researchers have focused on the positive impact of the berry on cardiovascular health, which, in part, seems to be due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Previous studies that specifically analyzed strawberries and their impact on intestinal health have used, in general, strawberry-derived compounds, rather than whole fruits. The authors of the recent study believe that this approach overlooks valuable information. The PhD student Yanhui Han – who conducted the experiments – explains that “ when only purified compounds and extracts are tested, many other important components of berries, such as dietary fiber, as well as fiber-bound phenolic compounds are lost, that cannot be removed by solvents . ” In addition, in a real-world situation, it is the whole berry that people consume, rather than its constituent parts.
To investigate, the scientists used a mouse model of IBD, which they created by feeding them with sodium dextran sulfate. IBD researchers use this technique extensively.
The researchers divided the mice into four groups:
- Healthy mice fed a normal diet
- IBD mice fed a normal diet
- IBD mice fed 2.5 percent whole strawberry powder
- IBD mice fed with 5 percent whole strawberry powder
Reduction of IBD Symptoms:
The researchers fed the mice with strawberry portions equivalent in size to a normal human portion. Their findings will be presented today at the 256th National Meeting and Exhibition of the American Chemical Society, held in Boston, Massachusetts.
“They concluded that eating the equivalent of three quarters of a cup of strawberries each day reduced weight loss and symptoms of IBD, such as bloody diarrhea”.
There was also a reduction in the inflammatory response in rodent colones – for example, pro-inflammatory markers including tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin 1 beta were much lower in the colon. Similarly, the level of pro-inflammatory immune cells fell on the lining of the colon. In addition, mice that ate strawberries showed reduced levels of harmful intestinal bacteria, including Akkermansia and Dorea, and increased levels of healthy flora, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. The next step will be to take this discovery to a human trial. The results are encouraging, but Xiao is quick to advise people with IBD to talk to a doctor before altering their diet. It is important that people allergic to fruit avoid strawberries. Although these are the first days, finding a simple nutritional intervention such as this could be a danger to people who have problems controlling their condition.