Roll on Wimbledon! Strawberries improve heart health among obese people (but hold the cream)

A daily serving of strawberries, in season during the UK's summer, may boost heart health among obese people. (Stock, Getty Images)
A daily serving of strawberries, in season during the UK's summer, may boost heart health among obese people. (Stock, Getty Images)

Strawberries signify the start of summer, with the sweet fruit being enjoyed on country picnics, BBQs and – of course – with cream at the the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

Fruit has long been known to boost our wellbeing, however, scientists from the University of Nevada have now revealed strawberries in particular may improve the heart health of obese people.

As part of the experiment, 33 obese people were told to eat varying amounts of strawberries over 14 weeks. During the first four weeks, the participants consumed a "control powder".

One week later, they ate 13g of a "strawberry powder" – equivalent to one serving of the fruit – every day for four weeks, followed by an additional seven-day break. Finally, the participants consumed 32g of the powder – equivalent to two and a half portions of strawberries – for four weeks.

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Results – published in the journal Nutrients – reveal the "high dose" strawberry powder significantly reduced the amount of cholesterol in the participants' blood, protecting against heart disease.

Just four weeks of this "achievable dose" also improved their insulin resistance – a measure of how efficiently cells respond to the blood sugar-lowering hormone, helping to ward off type 2 diabetes.

Women’s heart health care, medical concept with healthy red love heart on aging hand support
Heart disease is behind more than one in four deaths in the UK alone. (Stock, Getty Images)

"These are really interesting findings," said Dr Emma Derbyshire, nutritionist and adviser to British Summer Fruits.

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"Around 7.6 million people in the UK are living with heart and circulatory diseases.

"We know healthy living, which includes healthy eating, can help to reduce the risk of developing heart disease, prevent weight gain and lower diabetes risk.

"Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables is important for health and this is another indication that eating berries, as part of that, could be a good option for many people.

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"A portion of small-sized fresh fruit is equivalent to about seven strawberries."

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Berries are rich in heart-healthy vitamins and minerals. To better understand the benefits of strawberries specifically, the scientists analysed 33 obese people, average age 53.

While eating the varying amounts of strawberry powders, the participants were told to keep the rest of their diet and lifestyle the same, but avoid other berries.

Four weeks of consuming the 32g strawberry powder every day was linked to lower insulin levels, as well as improved insulin resistance, compared to the low dose and control powders.

The high dose powder was also associated with a reduction in so-called "bad" cholesterol.

"Adding strawberries as a breakfast topper, eating them as snack in-between meals or serving with natural yoghurt as a dessert could all contribute to daily fruit servings and the health benefits they offer," said Dr Derbyshire.

Watch: How to freeze strawberries