The California Strawberry Commission is highlighting separate studies unveiled this year linking regular strawberry consumption with prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.

WATSONVILLE, Calif. — As strawberries are set to adorn many a dessert this holiday season, a commodity group is touting their healthful qualities.

The California Strawberry Commission is highlighting separate studies linking strawberry consumption to a lower risk of developing diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease during November, which is the awareness month for both ailments.

In one of the studies, the USDA’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University near Boston found that supplementing older adults’ diets with about two cups per day can improve cognition.

In the other, Harvard University researchers found that women who ate strawberries at least once a month had a lower risk for developing diabetes than those who didn’t.

Unveiled this year, the studies were funded by the strawberry commission as part of its ongoing nutrition research program, spokeswoman Carolyn O’Donnell said.

Such studies have an impact on consumers’ attitudes, asserts Chris Christian, the commission’s senior vice president.

“I think it certainly could increase demand” for strawberries as people understand their health benefits, Christian said. “We’re working to promote the results so consumers and health professionals will be better educated about the benefits of strawberries in their daily diet.”

The group’s promotional efforts include special recipes on its website, messages on social media and work with a couple of registered dieticians, Christian said.

The commission’s research grants typically range from $75,000 to $100,000 per year, with priority given to projects that involve cost-sharing with other agencies or third parties. The panel plans to fund as many as three new nutrition projects in 2016, and the awards will be announced in January.

Nutrition research is a key part of many commodity groups’ mission, and many groups swear by its ability to affect consumer choices. For instance, tree nut groups tout perceived health benefits as a big reason for increased product demand in foreign markets such as China and India as well as domestically.

Indeed, in a 2011 U.S. market study, the California Walnut Commission found that 86 percent of consumers believed walnuts are healthful and 61 percent said they were buying more than they were five years earlier.

About 29 million Americans are diabetic and about 5.3 million in the United States have Alzheimer’s, according to federal statistics.

The Tufts study compared mobility and cognitive test results of groups of people ages 60-75 who ate or abstained from strawberries and found that the strawberry-eating group showed improvement in spatial memory and word recognition, although they did not show measurable improvements in mobility, according to the commission.

The Harvard study tracked 37,000 nondiabetic middle-aged women over a 14-year period and found that women who ate more strawberries were less likely to develop higher levels of hemoglobin A1c, a marker for diabetes.

“We found that eating even a modest amount of strawberries on a weekly basis was associated with a decreased risk of developing diabetes,” Harvard researcher Howard Sesso said when he presented the results to the American Diabetes Association earlier this year.

Source: Capital Press