Endothelium is a thin membrane that lines the inside of the heart and blood vessels. Endothelial cells release substances that control vascular relaxation and contraction of the heart, veins and arteries, playing a major role in blood flow and blood pressure regulation. It also contains enzymes that control blood clotting, immune function and wound healing. High total cholesterol and LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) can impair the function of the endothelium, arteries can clog, and lead to heart disease, particularly in later years of life.

A new study from Dr. Britt Burton Freeman’s team of researchers at Illinois Institute of Technology asked middle-aged adults with moderately high LDL cholesterol to drink beverages twice a day. A part of the group drank beverages made from freeze-dried strawberry powder (25g in each), and the other group drank a control powder for four weeks. After completing the first four week assigned beverage, they switched to the other type of beverage. Those that had the strawberry drinks switched to the control powder, and the other way around for an additional four weeks.

The health of the endothelium, measured using flow-mediated dilation, improved in the strawberry group in only one hour after drinking the beverage. Systolic blood pressure decreased two hours after drinking the strawberry beverage compared to the control. The results of the tests were more pronounced four weeks after the strawberry intervention.

These findings suggest that strawberries may improve endothelial function and be considered a specific food to include in a heart-healthy diet for aging adults with moderately high cholesterol. This is great news for all strawberry lovers, regardless of your age and cholesterol levels.