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Strawberries aren’t just a delicious fruit, they could also protect your skin from the DNA-ravaging effects of ultraviolet rays. In a joint study by Italy’s Università Politecnica delle Marche and the University of Barcelona in Spain, researchers found that adding strawberry extract to skin-cell cultures offered a measure of protection against UV radiation. While rubbing strawberries all over your body may not protect you from sunburn, scientists say that the findings could pave the way for a photoprotective cream made from the popular scarlet fruit.
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Strawberries (Fragaria × ananassa) contain several polyphenols with strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, says Maurizio Battino, lead author of the study, which was published in the February 2012 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Anthocyanins—a class of water-soluble pigments that give certain leaves, flowers, and fruits their red, purple, or blue color—are also a likely contributor.
Researchers found that strawberry extract not only boosted cell survival but it also minimized DNA damage.
To check their hypothesis, the team prepared several batches of human skin-cell cultures, otherwise known as fibroblasts, and added strawberry extract in different concentrations (0.05, 0.25 and 0.5 milligram per milliliter) to all but the control group. They then exposed the samples to a dose of UV light “equivalent to 90 minutes of midday summer sun in the French Riviera,” Battino says. The results demonstrated that strawberry extract, especially at a concentration of 0.5 mg/ml, not only boosted cell survival and viability but it also minimized DNA damage in comparison with control cells.
Sara Tulipani from the University of Barcelona acknowledges that this is only a first step. “At the moment the results act as the basis for future studies evaluating the ‘bioavailability’ and ‘bioactivity’ of anthocyanins in the dermis and epidermis layers of the human skin, whether by adding them to formulations for external use or by ingesting the fruit itself,” she says.
No matter what form the latest breakthrough in sun protection takes—whether it’s a strawberry-packed smoothie or some kind of strawberry-based miracle salve—it sounds delicious either way.