Tart cherries have a unique combination of powerful antioxidants that may help reduce risk factors for heart disease, according to researchers from the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, University of Arizona and Brunswick labs who studied the antioxidant levels and anti-inflammatory benefits of tart cherries. They found:
- Reduced inflammation and cardiovascular risk: Drinking eight ounces of tart cherry juice daily for four weeks significantly reduced important markers of inflammation in a study of 10 overweight or obese adults. Many of the adults also had lower levels of uric acid (linked to inflammation and gout) and triglycerides (linked to heart disease).
- Reduced atherosclerosis and other heart disease risk: A cherry diet (at 1 percent of diet as tart cherry powder) reduced C reactive protein and other markers of inflammation by up to 36 percent and lowered levels of total cholesterol by 26 percent in a five-month mouse study. The researchers suggest that there’s an atherosclerosis benefit connected to both lowering cholesterol, and an anti-inflammatory effect, specifically in the blood vessels coming from the heart. Importantly, the mice eating the cherry diets had a 65 percent reduction in early death, likely due to improved cardiovascular health.
- Powerful antioxidants: The heart benefits and many others may be due to the unique combination of natural antioxidant compounds in cherries. About one cup of freeze-dried tart cherries have an ORAC over 10,000, and contain a diverse combination of antioxidant compounds and phytochemicals likely responsible for their health benefits, according to the researchers.
The University of Michigan researchers, using a “whole food” approach, also found the cherry-enriched diets reduced not only overall body inflammation, but inflammation at key sites (belly fat, heart) known to affect heart disease risk in obese, at-risk rats.
Researchers attribute the benefits to anti-inflammatory, antioxidant compounds in the red fruit called anthocyanins, also responsible for cherries’ bright red color. In addition to heart heath benefits, research also suggests cherries could affect inflammation related to muscle recovery post-workout and arthritis.
Available year-round in dried, juice and frozen form, cherries are easy to incorporate into the daily diet.
The research was funded by the Cherry Marketing Institute, which provided an unrestricted grant to the institutions to conduct the research and was not directly involved in the design, conduct or analysis of the projects.