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Broad-Spectrum Disease-Fighting Properties of Tart Cherries

September 2014

By Michael Downey

Tart Cherrie's comprehensive phytonutrient profile

Inhibit The Inflammatory Pathway Of Gout

Gout is another type of inflammatory arthritis that is caused by high concentrations of uric acid in the body44 and is associated with higher risks of cardiovascular disease and mortality.20

Drugs such as allopurinol and probenecid are typically used to help reduce uric acid levels, but the side effects can include breathing difficulties, unusual bleeding, vomiting, nausea, severe rash—and even death.45-47 These drugs may also interfere with other medications.48,49

Fortunately for gout sufferers, cherries have been shown to safely and naturally prevent the underlying factors involved in gout.50,51

Researchers first proposed cherries as a gout inhibitor in 1950. A preliminary study showed daily cherry consumption relieved gout attacks and reduced serum uric acid levels.52 Since then, several studies have further established this defense.50,51

Scientists at the USDA’s ARS Western Human Nutrition Research Center at the University of California, Davis; ARS Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center, Little Rock; and Department of Pomology, University of California, Davis, gave healthy women between 20 and 40 years old 280 grams of cherries following an overnight fast. Over the next five hours, the participants’ uric acid levels dropped by 14.5%, and their C-reactive protein levels also decreased.50 No significant reductions in any of these levels were observed with similar doses of grapes, strawberries, or kiwifruit. The researchers concluded that the wide variety of compounds such as anthocyanins in cherries inhibited the inflammatory pathways of gout.50

With the knowledge that cherries are able to inhibit the onset of gout, scientists at Boston University set out to determine if cherry extract could reduce the recurrence of gout attacks. When they gave a cherry extract to 633 gout sufferers, they found that cherry extract reduced the risk of attacks by 45%. And when cherry intake was combined with the drug allopurinol, gout attacks were decreased by 75% compared to no intervention.51

Choosing The Right Type Of Cherry
Tart Cherry Juice Versus Extract

Not all cherries provide the full antioxidant and anti-inflammatory punch that scientists have described as “the highest antioxidant and anti-inflammatory content of any food.”1

The two cultivated varieties of cherry are the sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.), sometimes known as the wild cherry, and the tart cherry (Prunus cerasus L.), sometimes known as sour cherry or pie cherry.

They don’t deliver the same type or the same amounts of their potent compounds.

All cherries provide substantial quantities of antioxidants and other nutrients. But compared to their sweet cousins, tart cherries provide:

  • Less sugar and fewer calories than sweet cherries.
  • Much higher content of various anthocyanins.5,31
  • Twice the level of various phenolic compounds and greater levels of other nutrients.31
  • Compounds that increase the activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD), the body’s key antioxidant enzyme.10
  • Powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects when compared to other foods.1
  • A superior range of anthocyanins and other phytonutrients.4

Due to their superior anthocyanin and phenolic matrix, tart cherries may help reduce the risk of osteoarthritis, gout, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.6-9

But keep in mind that tart cherries are not the cherries you’re likely to see at the grocery store, which will almost certainly be sweet cherries. The potent but less common tart cherries are chiefly used for baking and usually come frozen, canned, dried, or juiced. Tart cherries may occasionally be located at a farmer’s market.

Fortunately, standardized extracts of tart cherries are available so you can take advantage of the latest scientific findings regarding tart cherries and their potent health benefits.

Put The Brakes On Age-Related Muscle Loss

The anti-inflammatory effects of tart cherries prompted investigations into their potential to lower muscle pain, protect muscle strength, and accelerate muscle repair. This is especially important for aging individuals who experience loss of muscle mass and strength (sarcopenia).

In one study, runners who drank 710 mL of tart cherry juice—providing at least 80 mg of various anthocyanins—daily for one week prior to and during a 24-hour relay race experienced substantially less post-race pain, compared to controls.53

Another group of runners who drank tart cherry juice daily from five days before until two days after a marathon had significantly reduced inflammation markers (interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein) compared to controls. They also recovered isometric strength faster.54

Also, in young men who normally never exercised, drinking 12 ounces of tart cherry juice twice daily for eight days resulted in only a 4% decrease of arm strength after repeated arm exercises—compared to a strength decrease of 22% in controls.55

Scientists then conducted a trial on 10 men to assess muscle-repair potential. Initially, each participant conducted an intensive leg exercise on one leg only. Then, the exercise was repeated on the other leg after two weeks. For seven days before and 48 hours after exercise, participants consumed 1 ounce of tart cherry drink or placebo twice daily. Faster recovery of the knee extension (maximum voluntary contraction force) was observed with the tart cherry juice protocol versus control—which researchers believed was due to attenuation of oxidative damage.56

These studies confirm that tart cherries deliver significant muscle-protecting benefits.

Unparalleled Protection and Anti-Inflammatory Potency
Unparalleled Protection and Anti-Inflammatory Potency

There are multiple elements behind tart cherries’ proven superiority at targeting the underlying oxidative and inflammatory origins of disease. Recent evidence indicates that anthocyanin-rich tart cherries exert their effects in 15 different ways. Tart cherries have been shown to:

  1. Enhance the body’s own endogenous antioxidants.65
  2. Beneficially inhibit certain enzymes5,66 while boosting others.7,67,68
  3. Provide compounds that increase the activity of the body’s antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase (SOD).10
  4. Deliver a higher content of anthocyanins than sweet cherries.2,5,31
  5. Contain a wider range of anthocyanins,4 including some not found in other berries.5
  6. Deliver over 20 richly bioactive anti-oxidants.4,10
  7. Provide an abundance of phenolic compounds—such as gallic acid, p-coumaric acid, kaempferol, and quercetin—that are both antioxidant and inflammomodulatory chemicals.10
  8. Contain cyanidin, which forms cyanidin-DNA complexes that make DNA more resistant to oxidative damage.69,70
  9. Modulate inflammatory cell-signaling molecules such as tumor necrosis factor.32
  10. Decrease levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), uric acid, and nitric oxide.50
  11. Strongly inhibit inflammatory diseases71,72 and inflammatory pain.73
  12. Reduce early mortality in animal studies.21
  13. Switch on cancer defenses.6,13,74
  14. Reduce blood glucose.75
  15. Decrease levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.21,24

With so many beneficial activities, it’s no wonder that tart cherries have been shown to have a superior ability1 to protect against the full range of conditions associated with oxidative stress-induced inflammation—including cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and Alzheimer’s disease.6-9