Islamabad - The world’s most popular berry isn’t just sweet and juicy - it can also do wonders for your health.

Traditionally, strawberries, which contain more vitamin C than the equivalent weight of oranges, have been used to cleanse the digestive system. But they also contain a range of phytonutrients - protective chemicals which have a range of health-boosting effects.

‘Strawberries can legitimately claim to be heart protective, anti-inflammatory and have anti-cancer properties - all rolled into one,’ says dietitian Nigel Denby.

‘They rank as one of the world’s healthiest foods.’ Here he reveals just exactly how beneficial they can be...

Strawberries are one of the world’s healthiest foods according to London-based dietitian Nigel Denby. Here, he explains they contain a range of protective chemicals with a range of health-boosting effects.

Strawberries are a rich source of the cancer-busting antioxidants anthocyanins and ellagic acid. Anthocyanins found in strawberries give them their distinctive red colour, but also help to mop up damaging free radicals in the blood. These damage tissues and can cause cancerous changes in the cells.

The ellagic acid content of strawberries has been shown in to halt the growth of tumours in the lungs, oesophagus, breast, cervix and tongue in laboratory studies.

And a study found antioxidants in strawberries could significantly inhibit the proliferation of human liver cancer cells. Smokers will be happy to know that a US study found strawberries reduced the effects of carcinogens - a substance capable of causing cancer - in tobacco smoke.

Strawberries are a rich source of vitamin C.

A study published in the Archives of Opthalmology indicated that eating three or more portions fruit rich in vitamin C may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration by 36 per cent. Macular degeneration is the primary cause of vision loss in older adults.

Eating strawberries could reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration - the leading cause of vision loss in older adults - by 36 per cent due to the high levels of vitamin C

Researchers found that rats fed are a diet rich in strawberries show less age related declines in brain function. They also had improved learning capacity and motor skills.

This could be related to the fact that the fruit contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are long chain fats - the building blocks of brain tissue.

Folic acid, also known as folate, is one of the few vitamins known to prevent neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida, which affects one on every 1,500 babies born in the UK.

Just eight strawberries a day contain a fifth of the folate requirement for an adult woman. Folic acid is an essential component of spinal fluid and helps to produce red blood cells and the mood-lifting hormone serotonin.

Strawberries contain high levels of dietary fibre, known to improve digestion

Strawberries contain high levels of dietary fibre, which has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and intestinal disorders.

One punnet of strawberries contains just 47 calories but 3.5g of dietary fibre, around one tenth of the total recommended daily intake. Ripe fruit, which contains high levels of soluble fibre, is best for your gut.

Cinnamon can make us better learners

Cinnamon is a warm, sweet spice that you can sprinkle on top of your latte while consuming a sticky cinnamon roll. In addition to tantalising your taste buds, cinnamon may improve your ability to learn, new research has found.

Cinnamon improved learning and memory in mice defined as poor learners.

The study, published in the journal Neuroimmune Pharmacology, finds that mice that are considered poor learners improve in learning ability after consuming cinnamon.

“This would be one of the safest and the easiest approaches to convert poor learners to good learners,” says Kalipada Pahan, PhD, lead researcher of the study.

Little is known about why some people are naturally good at learning and why some people who struggle with learning can either learn or fail to learn new skills with effort.

Pahan comments that by finding out why some brain mechanisms result in poor learning, strategies can be developed to increase learning ability and improve memory.

Researchers have located proteins in the hippocampus - the part of the brain that is involved in memory formation, memory organization, and memory storing - that are present in poor learners.

In poor learners, less of the CREB protein - that plays a role in memory and learning - was present in the hippocampus.

More of the alpha5 subunit of GABAA receptor or GABRA5 proteins - that generates tonic inhibitory conductance in the brain - was observed in poor learners than those mice that learned more effectively.

Feeding the mice cinnamon improved their learning and memory by altering the proteins associated with poor learning.

On consuming cinnamon, the mice metabolized the spice into sodium benzoate, which can be used as a treatment for brain damage.

The sodium benzoate had the effect on the mice of increasing the CREB in the brain and decreasing GABRA5 while increasing the ability of the hippocampal neurons to change. Consequently, these changes improved memory and learning.

The researchers trained the mice for 2 days in a maze consisting of 20 holes to observe if they could learn to find their target hole.

“We have successfully used cinnamon to reverse biochemical, cellular and anatomical changes that occur in the brains of mice with poor learning,” says Pahan.

After 1 month of feeding the mice cinnamon, those mice deemed as poor learners improved in memory and learning, and the good learners were unchanged.

“Individual difference in learning and educational performance is a global issue. We need to further test this approach in poor learners. If these results are replicated in poor learning students, it would be a remarkable advance.”

Pahan and co-workers have previously found a relationship between consuming cinnamon and the reversal of changes in the brains of mice with Parkinson’s disease.

The team has also detected through analysis that not all types of cinnamon are equal. Of the two major types of cinnamon available in the United States - Chinese and Ceylon - Ceylon cinnamon is purer, and Chinese cinnamon contains a molecule associated with liver damage.