Why strawberries could benefit your gut and reduce risk for colon cancer

In a recent study, researchers find that a cupful of strawberries a day could reduce colonic inflammation and improve gut health.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a set of painful conditions that can cause severe diarrhoea and fatigue.

IBD includes both Crohn’s disease, which can infect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, and ulcerative colitis, which is characterized by inflammation of the colon and rectum.

In 2015, there were 3 million adults in the U.S. diagnosed with IBD, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy dietary habits of many people in western countries may lead to colonic inflammation and increase the risk of IBD.

People with IBD also have a higher risk of colorectal cancer. Treatments can include medications and surgery.

Previous research has shown eating fruits and vegetables is linked to a lowered risk of IBD.

To establish an effective and practical approach to decrease colonic inflammation in both IBD patients and the general population, the team focused on strawberries in the study.

The researchers used four groups of mice — a group of healthy mice consuming a regular diet, and three groups of mice with IBD consuming a regular diet, a diet with 2.5% whole strawberry powder or a diet with 5% whole strawberry powder.

They tried to feed the mice doses of strawberries that would be in line with what a human could reasonably consume.

The team found that dietary consumption of whole strawberries at a dose equivalent to as low as three-quarters of a cup of strawberries per day in humans strongly reduced symptoms like body weight loss and bloody diarrhoea in mice with IBD.

Strawberry treatments also diminished inflammatory responses in the mice’s colonic tissue.

But decreased inflammation wasn’t the strawberry’s only conferred benefit during this study.

The researchers also observed a reversal of unhealthy microbiota composition in the IBD mice. The team suggests strawberries might impact abnormal metabolic pathways in the IBD mice, which in turn could lead to the decreased colonic inflammation they observed.

Next, the team will try to validate their findings in IBD patients.

While eating three-quarters of a cup of strawberries a day could be beneficial for those looking to enhance their gut health, the researchers advise patients to consult with their doctors before changing their diets.

The researchers acknowledge funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Hang Xiao, PhD at the University of Massachusetts Amherst led the study.

The study was presented at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

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Source: ACS.