Can strawberries help with joint pain?

Marion Hauser Curcumin and osteoarthritisMarion Hauser, MS, RD

When people come into our clinics with significant joint pain, they will often ask our clinicians about nutrition. Nutrition, of course, is a very important element in healing. The right food can stimulate healing, the wrong food can cause inflammatory reactions and hinder healing. A realistic expectation one may have with food choice change is that you will probably look a little better, feel a little better, have a little more energy, and your joints will hurt less. To what degree depends on how aggressive you are with a change of diet and healing. What type of foods can help? Some researchers think strawberries for one.

Let’s look at some of the new research surrounding strawberries and its ability to help to alleviate joint pain.

Are strawberries a good anti-inflammatory?

Doctors at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas published research (December 2018) in the journal Food & Function (1) which investigated knee osteoarthritis in obese people with high cardio-metabolic risk factors (high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal blood cholesterol). They noted that eating strawberries have been shown in clinical research to alleviate some arthritis symptoms in obese patients and to also impact problems of chronic inflammation by reducing inflammatory markers.

What they found was strawberries lowered TNF-α, and lipid peroxidation byproducts (toxic fatty acid production and inflammation) in obese adults with knee osteoarthritis.

An August 2017 study from researchers at multiple universities led by doctors at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center appearing in the medical journal Nutrients also examined the role of strawberries in improving pain and inflammation in obese adults with knee osteoarthritis.(2) The learning points and study highlights are provided below:

In a randomized, double-blind cross-over trial, 17 adults with radiographic evidence of knee osteoarthritis, whose body mass index scaled in the obese range, with an average age of 57 years old,  were randomized into two groups:

The researchers then took blood draws and assessments of pain and quality of life indicators using tradition pain and quality of life scoring system questionnaires. The questionnaires were completed at baseline and at weeks 12, 14, and 26 of the study.

The researchers concluded their study by saying:

Strawberries and wine share a common ingredient in reducing chronic inflammation

An international team of researchers writing in the May 2018 edition of Food chemistry focused on the strawberry’s high concentration of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins give strawberries their color as pigment but they also act to reduce chronic inflammation in the body. A particular anthocyanin, Pelargonidin-3-O-glucoside (P3G) was cited in this research. The study revealed that the P3G in strawberries have important anti-inflammatory proprieties that can act as an adjuvant (secondary) in the treatment of inflammatory conditions. (3) In other words, eat more strawberries to combat your inflammation if your doctor and diet allow.

P3G is also found in red wine. It comes from the pigment in the grapes.  I cover the red wine / resveratrol – Mediterranean diet connections in these articles:

The hard science of the amazing healing potential of strawberries

Strawberries are serious science. Another 2017 study in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences comes from an international team of researchers in Italy, Mexico, and Spain. Here are their findings:

Strawberries as super anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, even antibiotic

In the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, (5the same researchers from Italy, Mexico, Spain and Ecuador’s leading universities published their findings on the health benefits of strawberries even in the most toxic environment. Here is what they wrote:

In this stud,y the researchers took E. Coli LPS (E. Coli is a bacterial toxin, LPS is the Lipopolysaccharides, the outer protective layer of the bacteria that helps defend the bacteria againt anti-bacterial agents), and pretreated the toxins with strawberry extract before introducing them to healthy cells.

Typically the E.Coli LPS would be expected to cause bacterial infection, significant enough that antibiotics would need to be introduced to reverse the infection.

The researchers found that strawberry extracts  pre-treatment on the cells exposed to the E. Coli  counteracted LPS-induced oxidative stress reducing the amount of ROS and nitrite production, stimulating endogenous antioxidant enzyme activities and enhancing protection against lipid, protein and DNA damage.

What does all this mean? The oxidative stress and its components were halted by the strawberry’s anti-oxidant effect and, in fact, was reversed.

The researchers concluded: The results obtained in this work highlight the health benefit of strawberries against inflammation and oxidative stress.

By this time you should have an awareness that strawberries maybe good for you. Here is another argument and it is from the same researchers as the previous two cited studies:

In a third journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, (6) these researchers wrote:

“Current evidence indicates that the consumption of strawberries, a natural source of a wide range of nutritive and bioactive compounds, is associated with the prevention and improvement of chronic-degenerative diseases. Studies involving cells and animals provide evidence on the anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic and antiproliferative activity of the strawberry.

Strawberries do a lot of good things but they are not the single answer to obesity, chronic inflammation and joint pain

We often tell patients who come in for our comprehensive Prolotherapy treatment program to regenerate the damaged tissue of their painful joints, that years of degenerative damage cannot be reversed by a single “magic bullet,” treatment. Regeneration and restoration of advanced degenerative joint disease needs to have an aggressive and realistic program if they wish to avoid joint replacement.

Strawberries, while a great super food for many, is not a “magic bullet,” food. Where it can help is by planting seed (no pun intended) to help you turn a more positive page in your health care by creating awareness.

Better health, losing weight, it all requires desire and motivation and more importantly results. Small changes, such as strawberries as dessert, when added to other changes to your diet, add up.

If you have questions about chronic pain, you can get help from our Caring Medical staff.

1 Basu A, Kurien BT, Tran H, Maher J, Schell J, Masek E, Barrett JR, Lyons TJ, Betts NM, Scofield RH. Strawberries decrease circulating levels of tumor necrosis factor and lipid peroxides in obese adults with knee osteoarthritis. Food & function. 2018;9(12):6218-26. [Google Scholar]
2 Schell J, Scofield RH, Barrett JR, Kurien BT, Betts N, Lyons TJ, Zhao YD, Basu A. Strawberries Improve Pain and Inflammation in Obese Adults with Radiographic Evidence of Knee Osteoarthritis. Nutrients. 2017 Aug 28;9(9):949. [Google Scholar]
3 Duarte LJ, Chaves VC, dos Santos Nascimento MV, Calvete E, Li M, Ciraolo E, Ghigo A, Hirsch E, Simões CM, Reginatto FH, Dalmarco EM. Molecular mechanism of action of Pelargonidin-3-O-glucoside, the main anthocyanin responsible for the anti-inflammatory effect of strawberry fruits. Food chemistry. 2018 May 1;247:56-65. [Google Scholar]
4 Giampieri F, Forbes‐Hernandez TY, Gasparrini M, Afrin S, Cianciosi D, Reboredo‐Rodriguez P, Varela‐Lopez A, Quiles JL, Mezzetti B, Battino M. The healthy effects of strawberry bioactive compounds on molecular pathways related to chronic diseases. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2017 Jun 15.  [Google Scholar]
5 Gasparrini M, Forbes-Hernandez TY, Giampieri F, Afrin S, Alvarez-Suarez JM, Mazzoni L, Mezzetti B, Quiles JL, Battino M. Anti-inflammatory effect of strawberry extract against LPS-induced stress in RAW 264.7 macrophages. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2017 Apr 30;102:1-0.  [Google Scholar]
6 Forbes-Hernandez TY, Gasparrini M, Afrin S, Bompadre S, Mezzetti B, Quiles JL, Giampieri F, Battino M. The healthy effects of strawberry polyphenols: which strategy behind antioxidant capacity?. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. 2016 Jul 29;56(sup1):S46-59. [Google Scholar]


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