WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A fruity cocktail may not only be fun to drink but may count as health food, U.S. and Thai researchers said on Thursday.

Adding ethanol -- the type of alcohol found in rum, vodka, tequila and other spirits -- boosted the antioxidant nutrients in strawberries and blackberries, the researchers found.

Any colored fruit might be made even more healthful with the addition of a splash of alcohol, they report in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

Dr. Korakot Chanjirakul and colleagues at Kasetsart University in Thailand and scientists at the U.S.



Department of Agriculture stumbled upon their finding unexpectedly.

They were exploring ways to help keep strawberries fresh during storage. Treating the berries with alcohol increased in antioxidant capacity and free radical scavenging activity, they found.

Any colored fruit or vegetable is rich in antioxidants, which are chemicals that can cancel out the cell-damaging effects of compounds called free radicals.

Berries, for instance, contain compounds known as polyphenols and anthocyanins. People who eat more of these fruits and vegetables have a documented lower risk of cancer, heart disease and some neurological diseases.

The study did not address whether adding a little cocktail umbrella enhanced the effects.

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