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Cal Poly study focuses on women's health ... and strawberries

Kari Pilolla, an assistant professor in Cal Poly’s Food Science and Nutrition Department, is working in partnership with faculty and students at Humboldt State University to lead a study into the effects of regular strawberry consumption on the health of postmenopausal women, primarily in the heart and gut. 

During the 'ReCHARGE with Strawberries' clinical trial, participants are given a powdered strawberry supplement to mix into a drink each day for six weeks, and then they’re given a different supplement for another six weeks after that. One powder contains real strawberry compounds, Pilolla said, while the other is a placebo. 

Researchers, including both staff and roughly 20 Cal Poly students so far, track participants for nearly five months, and are involved in planning, budgeting, marketing, methods, testing—basically every piece of what it takes to run a research project, Pilolla said.  “These women who participate are impacting so many students."

As women transition into and through menopause, their hormones change dramatically, and Pilolla said that can often lead to increased blood pressure and cholesterol.

Strawberries contain compounds that Pilolla and her students think could lower cholesterol levels and improve gut health, both of which they think could work together to improve heart and liver health. Strawberries also just so happen to be one of the most commonly eaten berries in the U.S., and one of the most important crops on the Central Coast and in California. 

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