The Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission, which continually supports research to show the positive impact strawberries may have on good health and nutrition, is funding several upcoming projects.

The commission has funded more than $2.3 million in nutrition and health research since 2003, said Chris Christian, vice president of marketing.

“Upcoming research is designed to unlock the true power of strawberries and their potential impact on human health,” she said.

Bahram Arjmandi will lead research in the area of cardiovascular health at Florida State University, Tallahassee. Arjmandi’s research will examine whether strawberry consumption can improve vascular function and reduce blood pressure in postmenopausal women with pre- and Stage 1 hypertension.

Hypertension affects one in three Americans over 20, Christian said, so identifying dietary changes that help normalize blood pressure and improve vascular function at an early stage in the disease can offer a safe and effective lifestyle approach to disease prevention.

“Strawberries are a rich source of a number of phenolic compounds, and the additive and synergistic effects can be investigated by studying the whole fruit,” she said.

Carl Keen will lead research at the University of California-Davis Department of Nutrition that will examine whether strawberry consumption can significantly improve vascular reactivity in overweight male adolescents.

More than one-third of children and adolescents are obese or overweight, the commission says, and that makes them more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure.

“Flavonoids have been shown to improve endothelial function, which may be at least partly responsible for benefits on cardiovascular health,” Christian said.

Finally, Barbara Shukitt-Hale of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, plans to study the positive effects of strawberry consumption on the mobility and cognition of older adults.

Risks for cognitive decline threaten independence and quality of life for older adults, Christian says. Scientists are continuing to identify diet and lifestyle strategies that will help promote memory and motor performance in aging, including the positive health benefits of fruits and vegetables and the regional effects of polyphenols on the brain.