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Two Strawberries Found to be Rich in Ellagic Acid

By Sean Adams
August 11, 1997

Two strawberry varieties developed by ARS scientists are rich in ellagic acid, a natural organic compound that has been shown to inhibit certain types of cancer. The researchers found that Tribute and Delite strawberries had the highest ellagic acid levels among 36 varieties evaluated at the ARS Fruit Laboratory in Beltsville, MD.

The researchers found ellagic acid in the strawberries’ seeds and fruit pulp, but the highest concentration was in the leaves. Now the researchers will use this information to breed strawberries with higher levels in the fruit pulp.

It’s not yet known how much ellagic acid must be consumed to produce beneficial effects. But studies with the National Cancer Institute and Ohio State’s Department of Preventive Medicine recommend a diet that includes strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, walnuts and pecans--all sources of the compound.

Plants produce ellagic acid and glucose to form ellagitannins, water-soluble compounds that are easier for people to absorb in their diets. This means small amounts of ellagitannins may be more effective in the human diet than large doses of ellagic acid. Strawberries produce at least five ellagitannins. The chemical structures of these ellagitannins--and their effectiveness as anticarcinogens--have not yet been determined.

A report on studies of ellagic acid in strawberries appears in the August issue of Agricultural Research, the monthly magazine of the Agricultural Research Service. The story is available on the World Wide Web at


Scientific contact: John L. Maas, USDA-ARS, Fruit Laboratory, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350; phone 301-504-7653; fax 301-504-5062,