Health Benefits of Cherries
Cherries for gout
Cherries are especially useful for treating gout. Gout is a kind of arthritis linked to an unusually high amount of uric acid in the bloodstream. Uric acid is made in the liver and sometimes too much uric acid is made. Needle-like crystals form as uric acid levels increase, and these crystals build up in the joints over time, resulting in the pain and inflammation typical of gout.
Bing cherries have antioxidant as well as anti-inflammatory properties, in particular a compound known as cyanidin, which has been found to inhibit the activity of the enzyme involved in the making of uric acid. Research has revealed that eating the equivalent of a pound of fresh cherries each day is highly effective for lowering uric acid levels.
One study demonstrated that healthy people who ate Bing cherries for 28 days had reduced inflammation markers and they stayed low for days despite discontinuation of cherry consumption.
Another study has also shown that eating cherries may lower risk of gout attacks. Gout sufferers consuming cherries for a 2 day period had a 35 % reduced risk of gout attacks when compared with those not eating cherries. The risk of gout flare continued decreasing with the increase of cherry intake, up to 3 servings over 2 days. It was found that additional cherry intake did not provide any extra benefit.
Nutritional value of cherries (red) per 100g:
- How many calories in cherries – 50
- How much protein in cherries – 1g
- How many carbs in cherries – 12g
- What is the fat content of cherries – 0.3g
Nutrients in cherries
Cherries are a very good source of vitamins C and A. They are a good source of copper, calcium, iron, potassium and manganese.
Cherries and blood pressure
Montmorency tart cherry juice lowers blood pressure
Consuming tart cherry juice is as effective for reducing high blood pressure as blood pressure lowering medications. Participants of a 2016 study who had early signs of hypertension experienced a blood pressure reduction of 7% three hours after consuming a Montmorency tart cherry concentrate and water mixture.
The blood pressure readings of the 15 participants was least 130/90 mmHg, which means they had a higher risk of having cardiovascular related problems. They consumed either 60ml of tart cherry juice concentrate or 60ml of a commercial fruit-flavored drink.
Blood pressure was taken before consuming the Montmorency cherry concentrate and was measured thereafter on an hourly basis. The participants consuming the Montmorency cherry concentrate experienced a blood pressure reduction of 7 mmHg in the 3 hours after consumption.
The greatest systolic blood pressure improvement occurred when vanillic and protocatechuic, the cherry concentrate’s phenolic acids, reached peak plasma levels. The reduction in blood pressure from the consumption of the Montmorency cherry concentrate was comparable to the reduction achieved by blood pressure lowering medication.
A 2018 study found that consuming Montmorency tart cherry juice reduced systolic blood pressure in individuals between the ages of 65 and 80. The 34 study participants in this 12-week randomized controlled trial were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups.
The 1st group drank 240ml of Montmorency tart cherry juice in the morning and 240ml in the evening every day for the 12 weeks. The 2nd group drank the equivalent amount of a cherry flavored placebo drink devoid of tart cherries. Blood pressure as well as blood sugar, insulin, weight and cholesterol were measured when the study began and again when it ended.
The Montmorency tart cherry juice group had a significant reduction (4.1 mmHg) in systolic blood pressure in comparison to the drink placebo drink group.
How much tart cherry juice should you drink a day to lower blood pressure?
The participants in the 2016 study drank 60ml of tart cherry juice concentrate, which is estimated to be equivalent to about 500g of whole tart cherries.
The participants in the 2018 study drank 480 ml tart cherry juice, which was prepared from 68ml Montmorency tart cherry juice concentrate diluted with 412ml water.
Tart cherry juice for sleep
Melatonin in cherries
Montmorency tart cherries have been found to contain substantial amounts of the sleep hormone melatonin, which helps in regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Although some other foods also have melatonin, the quantity is too low to be effective, but, according to research, Montmorency cherries have 0.1 to 0.3 milligram of melatonin a serving, and contain about 6 times more melatonin compared to Balaton cherries. At this dosage melatonin has been proven to be an efficient sleep inducer.
A 2014 study concluded that Montmorency tart cherry juice helps in improving the quality and duration of sleep, as well as help in reducing insomnia severity. The 7 study participants who suffered from insomnia that consumed the cherry juice in the morning as well as at night slept over an hour longer each night.
Besides Montmorency tart cherries being a good source of melatonin, tart cherry juice also helps in increasing the availability of the essential amino acid tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin which helps with sleep. The tart cherry juice inhibits a tryptophan degrading enzyme and degradation of tryptophan is a predictor of insomnia. The researchers suggest the melatonin and tryptophan combination in Montmorency tart cherries is likely contributing to the benefits of tart cherries for sleep.
Cherries for weight loss
A 2008 animal study has suggested that tart cherries have significant potential for reducing belly fat. Obese rats that were given tart cherry powder combined with a high-fat diet gained less weight than rats that were not given cherries. After 12 weeks, the rats that were given the tart cherry powder had 54% body fat in comparison to 63% for rats that were fed a “Western diet”. The difference in weight gain was particularly pronounced in fat around the waist area, the rats that were given the cherry powder gained less belly fat.
The rats were given either a high fat and moderate carbohydrate diet, or a low fat and high carbohydrate diet, both of which came either with or without tart cherry powder. The cherry enriched diet rats experienced a total cholesterol level reduction of approximately 11%.The TNF-alpha inflammation marker was reduced by 40% and interleukin 6 (IL-6) was reduced by 31%.
Cherries and cancer
Cherries have quite high levels of anthocyanins (the flavonoids giving cherries their intense red color), which give them anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and chemopreventative properties. Tart cherries contain the natural compound perillyl alcohol, which seems to be very effective in reducing the incidence of all kinds of cancer. Perillyl alcohol has tested well for treating advanced prostate, breast and ovary cancers. Research suggests that substances in tart cherries can reduce the formation of the carcinogenic chemicals (HCAAs) that develop from the charring of meat.
Cherries for colon cancer
Two of the anthocyanidins present in cherries, quercetin and isoquerxitrin, have been found to prevent the growth of colon cancer.
Cherries for breast cancer
Cyandin-3-glucoside, another anthocyanin found in cherries and other fruits, has antioxidative and anti‐inflammatory properties and also induces the death of breast cancer cells. Cyandin-3-glucoside inhibits the cytokine VEGF, which plays a key role in tumor angiogenesis. Angiogenesis (new blood vessel formation) plays a major role in breast cancer progression by providing cancer cells with nutrients, oxygen, and blood vessels for cancer cells to spread.
Delphinidin is another anthocyanin found in cherries and other brightly colored fruits and veggies, and is also found in certain dietary supplements used as complementary cancer treatment. Delphinidin induces cell death in HER2+ breast cancer cells. Delphinidin also inhibits epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling in breast cancer cells.
Tart cherry juice benefits for exercise
Tart cherry juice improves exercise recovery
Cherries help to alleviate muscle soreness after exercising. A cup of tart cherry juice can help in reducing the soreness and inflammation of the muscles that is experienced after strenuous exercise. Marathon runners consuming tart cherry juice twice a day for 7 days before a race experienced less post race pain compared to runners not consuming cherry juice.
A 2011 study revealed that men who had tart cherry juice after weight training exercises experienced less muscle pain as well as less strength loss.
A 2019 study found that active women consuming tart cherry concentrate twice a day for eight days experienced reduced muscle soreness after exercising.
Tart cherry juice improves exercise performance
A 2019 study concluded that Montmorency cherry supplementation improves cycling performance. Eight trained cyclists supplementing Montmorency tart cherry for 7 days improved cycling time-trial performance. The exercise performance improvement was accompanied by muscle oxygenation enhancement which suggests that the cherry polyphenols’ vasoactive properties could be supporting the performance improvement effects.
Tart cherry juice for arthritis
Commonly used pain medication for osteoarthritis doesn’t actually reduce inflammation and has unwanted side effects such as kidney or liver damage. The pain relieving properties of tart cherries have been show to be effective for the relief of pain associated with osteoarthritis without the side effects of conventional treatments.
A 2007 study revealed that pain and function improved significantly in osteoarthritis of the knee patients when they were given tart cherries in supplement form for 8 weeks.
Cherry juice for inflammation
In a 2012 double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, 20 patients suffering from inflammatory osteoarthritis had significant reductions in inflammation markers after consuming tart cherry juice twice daily for 3 weeks.
The study participants included twenty 40 to 70 year old women experiencing at least moderate osteoarthritis pain. They consumed 10.5-ounces of tart cherry juice or a placebo cherry drink twice daily for 3 weeks. There was a statistically significant reduction in inflammation among those individuals who consumed the tart cherry juice, which was indicated by reduced C-reactive protein levels. The reduction in inflammation was greatest for individuals who had shown the highest levels of inflammation at the beginning of the study.
Cherry juice for pain relief
Cherries are a natural pain reliever. Researchers have found that anthocyanidins from cherries have the ability to block both COX-1 and COX-2, enzymes considered to cause pain. Of all the fruits which were tested, cherries had the highest amounts of key anthocyanidins. The COX-inhibitory activities of the anthocyanidins in cherries were even found to be comparable to those of naproxen and ibuprofen.
Tart cherries and cholesterol
Elevated LDL cholesterol levels are a risk factor for atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases. The standard medical approach to help reduce LDL cholesterol levels to a safer range is to prescribe statins to reduce blood lipid levels. However, some patients encounter Statins are however not without side effects such as muscle pain to liver dysfunction.
A 2011 study reported a 26% reduction in cholesterol levels in mice fed tart cherry powder. A reduction in early death of 65% was also reported, which was believed to be as a result of an improvement in cardiovascular health.
Another 2011 study in humans reported a reduction in of triglycerides levels of more than 17% on average after consuming 8-ounces of tart cherry juice daily for 4 weeks.
A 2018 study reported a significant reduction in LDL cholesterol levels after participants drank Montmorency tart cherry juice made from concentrate. Study participants drinking 480ml of Montmorency tart cherry juice daily for 12 weeks experienced a reduction in LDL cholesterol levels as well as lower levels of total cholesterol.
Benefits of cherries for skin
What is oxidative stress?
Oxidative stress when the body has an imbalance of antioxidants and free radicals. Free radicals are produced by the cells of the body during normal metabolic processes, and free radical neutralizing antioxidants are also produced by the cells. The body usually maintains a balance between free radicals and antioxidants.
Oxidative stress plays an important part in the aging process, especially in the skin. Aging results in the thinning of the epidermal (outer) as well as dermal (under) layers of the skin. This leads to fine wrinkles as a result of reduction of elastic fibers, collagen, and hyaluronic acid.
What are antioxidants?
Free radicals are unstable molecules which can cause damage in the body, and antioxidants neutralize free radicals by giving the free radical an electron. Antioxidants are produced naturally by the body and can also come from food such as fruit and veggies.
Several human studies have shown that sweet as well as tart cherries reduce oxidative stress. Melatonin, carotenoids, anthocyanins, polyphenols, and vitamins C and E are all contributors to the antioxidant properties of cherries.
Cherries are an excellent source of anthocyanins, the flavonoid pigment that gives the cherry it’s color, and which has the greatest antioxidant capacity of any of the flavonoids. Tart cherries have more anthocyanins in comparison to sweet cherries. Scientific evidence has suggested that anthocyanins could possibly delay the appearance of signs of skin aging.
Cherry juice and diabetes
There is some evidence to suggest that consumption of cherries could help in promoting healthy glucose regulation and reducing diabetes risk.
The enzymes dipeptidyl peptidase-4 and α glucosidase which are involved in the promotion of diabetes are inhibited by chlorogenic acid, one the main polyphenols of tart cherry juice.
Study results suggest that blood glucose could be reduced from anthocyanins by slowing the production of glucose from complex carbohydrates. The production of glucagon by pancreatic α cells could also be reduced, and hepatic glucose uptake and production of insulin by pancreatic β cells increased.
A 2008 study revealed a significant decrease in hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) after diabetic women supplemented 40 mL of concentrated tart cherry juice day for 6 weeks. Fasting blood glucose was also decreased by 8%.
History of cherries
Cherries were named after the ancient Turkish town of Cerasus and go as far back to at least 300 B.C.
Cherries were among the first fruits the early settlers brought to America. The first cherry orchard was planted in northern Michigan in the 1600s. The 1st commercial tart cherry orchards in Michigan were planted in 1893.
The ultimate celebration of cherries is the National Cherry Festival, which is held each year in July in Traverse City, Michigan.
Cherry trees have played a part in American folklore since George Washington chopped down his father’s cherry tree, then couldn’t tell a lie and told his father what he’d done.
Sweet cherries are cultivated throughout North America and Europe. France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Russia are big producers in Europe. Sour cherries are cultivated in Eastern Europe, Germany, Russia, and the United States. Germany tops the world in cherry production, followed by the United States.
Article reviewed by Dr Patricia Carrothers, Regenerative and Preventative Medicine.