Study Shows Extract from Strawberries Protects Against Ultraviolet Radiation

A team of European researchers has discovered that strawberry extract added to skin cell cultures acts as a protector from ultraviolet rays.

Strawberries (Ken Hammond / USDA ARS)

Their study, published in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, opens the door to the creation of photoprotective cream made from strawberries.

“We have verified the protecting effect of an extract from strawberries against damage to skins cells caused by UV-A rays,” said senior author Dr Maurizio Battino, a researcher at the Università Politecnica delle Marche in Italy.

The scientists prepared human skin cell cultures (fibroblasts) and added strawberry extract in different concentrations (0.05, 0.25 and 0.5 mg/ml). Using ultraviolet light, the samples were then exposed to a dose ‘equivalent to 90 minutes of midday summer sun in the French Riviera.’

They found that the extract, especially at a concentration of 0.5 mg/ml, displays photoprotective properties in those fibroblasts which were exposed to UV-A radiation. It also increases cell survival and viability, and decreases damage in the DNA.

“These aspects are of great importance as they provide protection for cell lines subject to conditions that can provoke cancer and other skin-related inflammatory and degenerative illnesses,” Dr Battino said. “This is the first step in determining the beneficial effects of strawberries in our diet or as a possible compound source for food integrators or cosmetics, for instance.”

But what molecules give strawberries their photoprotective properties? Scientists suspect that it could be the anthocyanins, which are pigments that give leaves, flowers and fruits their red color. Analyses have confirmed that extracts are rich in such substances.

“These compounds have important anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-tumor properties and are capable of modulating enzymatic processes,” said co-author Dr Sara Tulipani of the University of Barcelona. “We have not yet found a direct relationship between their presence and photoprotective properties.”

“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,” Dr Tulipani said.

In previous works, the team had already demonstrated that strawberries strengthen the red bloods cells and protect the stomach from the effects of alcohol.

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Bibliographic information: Giampieri et al. 2012. Photoprotective Potential of Strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa) Extract against UV-A Irradiation Damage on Human Fibroblasts. J. Agric. Food Chem., 60 (9), pp 2322–2327; doi: 10.1021/jf205065x