Mazzoni et al. - Strawberry nutritional value and its impact on human health

Luca Mazzoni1, Francesca Giampieri1, Jacopo Diamanti2, Franco Capocasa2, José Miguel Alvarez-Suarez1, Massimiliano Gasparrini1, Francesca Balducci2, Maurizio Battino1 e Bruno Mezzetti2*
1Dipartimento di Scienze Cliniche Specialistiche ed Odontostomatologiche, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona
2Dipartimento di Scienze Agrarie, Alimentari ed Ambientali, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona

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Key words: berries; nutritional quality, health validation.

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Abstract

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The association of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and a reduction in the incidence of several chronic pathologies, including obesity, infections, cardiovascular and neurological diseases, and cancer has been often highlighted by many epidemiologic studies. In particular, berries have an important role among fruits because of their high phytochemical content. The most common and important berry consumed in the Mediterranean diet is strawberry, and it assumes an important role in the prevention of such chronic pathologies. This beneficial effect on the human health is due to its high content of bioactive compounds, like vitamin C, folate and phenolic constituents, most of which express relevant antioxidant capacities in vitro and in vivo. The content of all these phytochemical compounds is a measure of the Nutritional Quality of the fruit. The main phenolic compounds detected in strawberry are flavonoids (anthocyanins, flavanols and flavonols), hydrolyzable tannins (ellagitannins and gallotannins), and phenolic acids (hydroxybenzoic acids and hydroxycinnamic acids), with condensed tannins (proanthocyanidins) being the minor constituents. Anthocyanins in strawberries are the best known polyphenolic compounds and quantitatively the most important; in fact, more than 25 different anthocyanin pigments have been described in strawberries of different varieties and selections and pelargonidin- 3-glucoside is the major anthocyanin. Instead, the ellagitannins content and composition in foodstuffs have been characterized only recently. The representative ellagitannins in strawberries is sanguiin H-6. As previously stated, strawberries also contain small amounts of other phenolic compounds, like flavonol (derivat ives of quercet in and kaempferol , wi th quercetin derivatives being the most abundant), flavanols (catechins and condensed tannins or procyanidins) and a variety of phenolic acids that occur as derivatives of hydroxycinnamic acid and hydroxybenzoic acid. The phenolic content and the total antioxidant capacity in fruits and vegetables vary according to numerous factors, some of which may be controlled to optimize their quality. In particular, the polyphenol composition, the anthocyanin profile, and the total antioxidant capacity of strawberries varies throughout their growth and stage of ripening. Moreover, the genetic background and environmental conditions play an important role in strawberry characteristics, because the content of micronutrients and phytochemicals may greatly vary from cultivar to cultivar and depend on cultural practices. Furthermore, storage can influence micronutrient and phytochemical profiles of the strawberry, and storage temperature seems to be one of the key factors. It has been demonstrated that fruit processing also influences antioxidant substances, in particular in the processing in which the use of heat is necessary. This review focuses on the nutrient and phytochemical contents of the strawberry and on factors affecting the composition of this fruit. An overview on the bioavailability and metabolism of the most abundant strawberry phytochemicals after consumption is also presented, and the currently hypothesized health benef i ts related to st rawber ry consumpt ion is reviewed, with particular attention to recent evidence on the impact of berries on cardiovascular health and cancer prevention.

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