Cherry-rich diets are indeed anti-inflammatory, one more study confirms. The diets not only reduced overall body inflammation, but also reduced inflammation at key sites (belly fat, heart). Such inflammations cause heart disease in obese, at-risk rats. Michigan researchers presented their findings at the Experimental Biology annual meeting.
At-risk obese rats were fed a cherry-enriched "Western Diet," characterized by high fat and moderate carbohydrate -- in line with the typical American diet -- for 90 days. Cherry-enriched diets, which consisted of whole tart cherry powder as 1 percent of the diet, reduced risk factors for heart disease including cholesterol, body weight, fat mass and known markers of inflammation. While inflammation is a normal process the body uses to fight off infection or injury, according to recent science, a chronic state of inflammation increases the risk for diseases.
"Chronic inflammation is a whole body condition that can affect overall health, especially when it comes to the heart," said study co-author Mitch Seymour, PhD, at the University of Michigan. "This study offers further promise that foods rich in antioxidants, such as cherries, could potentially reduce inflammation and have the potential to lower disease risk."
A second pilot study found similar results in humans. Ten overweight or obese adults drank eight ounces of tart cherry juice daily for four weeks. At the end of the trial, there were significant reductions in several markers of inflammation, in addition to lower levels of triglycerides, another key risk factors for heart disease.
Researchers say both studies are encouraging and will lead to further clinical studies in humans to explore the link between diet, inflammation and lowering disease risk.
This new study is the latest linking cherries to protection against heart disease and inflammation. Researchers believe it's the anthocyanins, powerful antioxidant compounds in cherries, also responsible for the fruit's bright red color, that link cherries to reduced inflammation, even inflammation related to muscle recovery post-exercise.
In a previous study too, Michigan researchers have shown that healthy adults who ate a cup and a half of frozen cherries had increased levels of antioxidants, specifically five different anthocyanins - the natural antioxidants that give cherries their red colour. Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules produced when your body breaks down food, or by environmental exposures like tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals can damage cells, and may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.
Since cherries are available year-round in dried, frozen and juice forms, it's easy and delicious to incorporate them into the daily diet to help manage inflammation, from topping dried cherries in oatmeal to enjoying a post-exercise smoothie of cherry juice and lowfat yogurt.
The study was funded by the Cherry Marketing Institute. For more information, and to download the Cherry Nutrition Report, a compilation of more than 65 published studies on the potential health benefits of cherries, visit www.choosecherries.com.