Cherries Linked With Many Health Benefits

Published: Sat 30 Jun 2007 02:36 PM
US Cherry Nutrition Report Links Cherries with Many Health Benefits
With the help of some leading health experts, the Cherry Marketing Institute in the United States of America has launched a new consumer education campaign and unveiled The Cherry Nutrition Report. Available at the report is the first compendium of peer-reviewed cherry-related studies and documents the high levels of antioxidants. It also reviews the research that links cherries to a variety of health benefits—from easing the pain of arthritis and gout to offering potential protection against heart disease and certain cancers.
“There’s a significant body of evidence suggesting that cherries are one of the most nutritious fruits you can eat,” said panel member Russel Reiter, PhD, a nutrition researcher at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. Dr. Reiter has pioneered many of the studies on tart cherries. “Cherries not only contain significant levels of antioxidants, but they provide a unique combination of antioxidants that are not found in other fruits,” Dr. Reiter said. “The compounds in cherries act as potent antioxidants that appear to have anti-inflammatory benefits, which may be particularly valuable for aging baby boomers suffering from joint pain.” Research indicates that cherries help inhibit enzymes in the body that are associated with inflammation. The compounds in cherries were found to have similar activity as aspirin and ibuprofen.
Cherries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins, which provide the distinctive red color of cherries and may hold the key to the benefits locked inside. These rich red pigments are a type of phytonutrient known as flavonoids, which have been linked to a variety of health benefits—from potential protection against heart disease and cancer to keeping the brain sharp.
Research conducted at Michigan State University found that cherries are the richest source of anthocyanins 1 and 2—which help block cyclooxygenase 1 and 2, termed COX-1 and COX-2. Some pain medication works by inhibiting COX-1 and COX-2, which may explain why cherries seem to help ease the pain of arthritis and gout. The researchers found cherries were the highest in these beneficial compounds compared to various berries such as blackberries and strawberries. Anthocyanins 1 and 2 are not found in blueberries or cranberries.
Additionally, cherries are one of the few food sources of melatonin, a potent antioxidant that helps improve the body’s circadian rhythms and natural sleep patterns, according to studies conducted by Dr. Reiter, who is the author of Melatonin and is a leading authority on melatonin.
More recent studies reviewed in The Cherry Nutrition Report suggest that compounds in cherries may help lower blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of insulin resistance syndrome, or pre-diabetes.
Most consumers seem to be in the dark about the antioxidant content and nutritional value of cherries. However, cherries were on top when it came to taste with respondents saying they prefer the taste of cherries compared to blueberries and cranberries.

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