Cherries combat cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other inflammatory diseases, research reveals
(NaturalHealth365) Cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, claims over 610,000 lives every year. In truth, people all around the world suffer (needlessly) because they lack the knowledge (and support) needed to protect themselves from harm.
And, let’s not forget the dangers of diabetes. The American Diabetes Association reports that this disease – which currently affects 30.3 million Americans – was listed as an underlying or contributory cause in over 330,000 deaths in 2015 alone. Better nutrition is the only reasonable way to avoid this fate.
For example, a scientific review reveals that the anti-inflammatory benefits of cherries could help prevent the development of these life-threatening conditions – which is very good news indeed.
Reverse cardiovascular disease with the nutrition found inside cherries
The fact is: the humble cherry is actually packed with disease-fighting polyphenols and micronutrients. And, we must remember that cardiovascular disease is largely created by eating too many toxic fats and processed sugars; an overabundance of environmental toxins in the body; nutritional deficiencies (especially a lack of antioxidants); and physical inactivity.
Now, let’s get back to the ‘power of nutrition:’ the cherry’s most effective weapon against disease could well be its extremely high levels of anthocyanins and carotenoids – natural plant pigments responsible for the deep, vibrant color of these luscious fruits.
Researchers have determined that these compounds have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-obesity and anti-diabetic qualities – one of the reasons that natural health experts so strongly advise eating healthy amounts of brightly-colored fruits and vegetables.
In addition, cherries are rich in quercetin, an antioxidant flavonoid also found in grapes, apples and onions. By scavenging harmful free radicals, these compounds help to ward off oxidative damage and stress to tissues and cells.
But, high levels of plant pigments aren’t all that cherries have going for them. Cherries also happen to be great sources of vitamin C and E, along with the essential minerals potassium, magnesium and manganese.
Finally, cherries are packed with dietary fiber, proven to have anticancer and anti-obesity effects.
Clinical findings demonstrate that cherries target inflammatory diseases
In a review published in 2018 in Nutrients, the authors evaluated 29 different studies examining the effects of cherries. The studies involved both sweet and tart varieties of cherries in a variety of formulations, including fresh cherries, powdered cherries, cherry concentrates and cherry juice.
After examining the studies – many of which were placebo-controlled and double-blind (the gold standard of research protocol) the researchers credited cherries with an amazing variety of benefits.
The authors reported that consumption of cherries decreased markers of oxidative stress, reduced inflammation, helped relieve exercise-induced muscle soreness, improved arthritis pain, and even promoted more restful sleep.
In addition, cherries were found to reduce blood pressure, decrease blood sugar, lower harmful VLDL (very low density) cholesterol and decrease levels of triglycerides.
In other words, cherry consumption conferred a sort of “laundry list” of benefits that could be expected to promote health and help to prevent cardiovascular disease.
Cherries stimulate antioxidant defenses and reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease
In multiple clinical studies, cherry-enriched diets were shown to improve heart health by lowering levels of triglycerides, blood sugar and insulin. Simultaneously, levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol increased, along with the antioxidant capacity of the blood.
According to scientists, a high antioxidant defense system lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, stimulates the immune system and even protects brain neurons from damage.
In one study, cherry juice significantly lowered blood pressure.
Intriguingly, researchers found cherry juice worked best when given in larger amounts at less frequent intervals. 100-ml dosages given hourly had little influence, while 300 mg – given all at once – caused blood pressure to decrease within two hours.
Cherries also reduce C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker implicated in increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
In a 2006 study from the USDA’s Human Nutrition Research Center at the University of California, Davis, participants who ate about 45 fresh pitted cherries a day for four weeks had a 24 percent reduction in C-reactive protein – a change associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Cherry consumption may help prevent complications from diabetes
In addition to their heart-healthy effects, anthocyanins play a role in preventing diabetes – reducing insulin resistance and glucose intolerance while improving insulin secretion.
They accomplish this by slowing glucose production, reducing glucose output from the liver and increasing blood sugar uptake.
Numerous studies support the anti-diabetic effect of cherry consumption.
In a 2008 study of diabetic women published in Nutrition and Food Science, 40 mL of tart cherry juice a day for six weeks reduced HbA1C, a measure of blood sugar levels over time.
In another study, 600 mg of anthocyanins given daily to diabetic patients for two months had a protective effect on blood vessels and helped to ward off retinopathy, a complication of diabetes.
Cherries help decrease production of inflammatory molecules
Although the newest review supports the ability of cherries to cut inflammation, this probably didn’t come as a surprise to natural healers. Cherries have been used for centuries in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat arthritis and gout.
As early as 1950, scientists found that cherry consumption helped to reduce symptoms of arthritis and caused greater mobility in the joints – and studies since then have shown that anthocyanins in cherries suppress production of inflammatory chemicals such as COX1 and interleukin-18.
In a 2013 USDA study published in Journal of Nutrition, cherry consumption lowered inflammatory markers, leading the team to conclude that cherry consumption caused the risk of arthritis to drop.
Cherry juice’s anti-inflammatory effects can help improve muscle soreness and speed recovery from vigorous exercise. In one study, athletes who were given a tart cherry juice concentrate recovered strength more rapidly than a control group.
Bonus: cherries promote refreshing sleep
“Have a nice, relaxing bowl of cherries” is probably not a phrase that is frequently spoken.
But maybe it should be, as cherries – especially tart cherries – are one of the best food sources of melatonin on the planet.
Melatonin, known as the “sleep hormone,” supports restful slumber and regular circadian rhythms. It is also a potent antioxidant that can decrease oxidative damage and boost the immune system.
What type of cherry offers the maximum benefit?
Most studies have been conducted using Montmorency tart cherries, which can contain double the anthocyanin content of their sweeter cousins. As a rule, the darker the cherry, the more anthocyanins it contains.
However, studies with sweet Bing cherries have also shown benefits.
Alert: Conventionally-grown cherries regularly appear near the top of the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen,” a list of fruits and vegetables likely to contain pesticide residue.
In fact, the EWG reports that samples of conventionally grown cherries had an average of five detectable pesticides. Clearly, opting for organic cherries is the wiser choice – especially if you want to avoid the increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
If obtaining fresh cherries is too impractical or expensive, no worries: studies show that powdered or liquid cherry extracts, as well as cherry juice, can also offer powerful benefits. However, anthocyanins may be depleted by freezing.
Packed with anthocyanins, flavonoids, micronutrients (and natural sweetness), flavorful cherries are a true superfood – and one of the best ways to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Sources for this article include:
Cancer & Heart Disease
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