Healthspan staff August 13, 2018

You’ve heard of cherries as a sweet snack, but have you heard of them as a nutritional booster? We’ve gone wild for this super-supplement’s health benefits, but does cherry juice help you sleep and are the rest of its claims medically proven? We dig deep into the research, so you don’t have to. 

1. Sleep

Sour or tart cherries are a rich source of melatonin – your natural sleep-inducing hormone – and drinking cherry juice before bedtime can help to improve sleep quality and quantity. One study assessed the sleep continuity – including sleep onset, wake after sleep onset, total sleep time and sleep efficiency – of participants using either cherry juice or a placebo. The effects of the two were assessed using sleep diaries written by participants and their disease severity graded using the insomnia severity index. The study concluded that cherry juice has beneficial effects on sleep in older adults with insomnia. The results were similar to those shown in studies of valerian, another alternative medicine for insomnia.1

2. Gout

Gout is caused by a build-up of uric acid in the circulation, which then precipitates out into joints and other tissues to cause an excruciatingly painful inflammation. Cherry juice appears to have a stimulating effect on the kidneys to increase the excretion of uric acid, and also has powerful antioxidant effects to suppress inflammation.2 In 2012, research from Boston Medical Center – published in the Journal Arthritis & Rheumatism – found that eating just ten cherries a day helped prevent gout sufferers from experiencing recurrent attacks. The study, which included 633 people with gout found that eating cherries over a 2-day period reduce their risk of a gout attack by 35% compared with no cherries. When cherry intake was combined with the anti-gout drug, allopurinol, the risk of a gout attack was reduced by 75%.3

The findings were proved for cherry juice, too – with British researchers finding that drinking tart cherry juice significantly lowered blood levels of uric acid, which causes gout.4

3. Osteoarthritis

Cherries may also help to reduce the painful joint symptoms of osteoarthritis. Researchers from Philadelphia VA Medical Center found that people who consumed an 8-ounce bottle of cherry juice, twice daily, for six weeks reported improvement in stiffness and pain – two common symptoms of osteoarthritis. Not only that, cherry juice was linked with a reduction in blood levels of an inflammatory substance (high-sensitivity C-reactive protein or CRP) suggesting that the reduction in symptoms was due to reduced inflammation.5 The results would be mirrored by eating cherries in their organic form – but each 8-ounce bottle of juice equalled 45 cherries. That’s a total of 80 cherries a day to reap the benefits!

4. Exercise recovery

Cherry’s anti-inflammatory action also helps to decrease oxidative stress during physical exercise, particularly after marathon running, which explains the popularity of this nutrient for those taking part in active sports. Oxidative stress is caused by an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. When more free radicals are present than antioxidants, the former can damage tissues and lead to muscle soreness and stiffness after intense exercise. The antioxidants in tart cherry juice help to neutralise oxidative stress, to reduce inflammation, lessen pain and accelerate recovery after both strength and endurance exercise. Most studies use 8 to 12 oz (or 1 oz if concentrated) twice a day, for four to five days before an event, and for two to three days after to promote recovery.6

5. Diabetes

The metabolic abnormalities associated with diabetes can lead to high levels of oxidative stress. Cherries contain an abundance of antioxidants called anthocyanins, which neutralise oxidative stress and also help to lower blood sugar levels in people with poorly-controlled type 2 diabetes. Believe it or not, research published in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed this cherry juice ingredient could increase insulin production from pancreas cell cultures by a huge 50%. Anthocyanins are responsible for the colour of many fruits like cherries and are potent antioxidants.

Cherries provide such as wide range of health benefits that we should all aim to consume more!


References
1 Pigeon, W; Carr, M; Gorman, C; Perlis, M (June 2010) Effects of a Tart Cherry Juice Beverage on the Sleep of Older Adults with Insomnia: A Pilot Study, NCBI.
2 Jacob RA, Spinozzi GM, Simon VA, Kelley DS, Prior RL, Hess-Pierce B, Kader AA (June 2003) Consumption of cherries lowers plasma urate in healthy women, The Journal of Nutrition.
3 Zhang Y, Neogi T, Chen C, Chaisson C, Hunter DJ, Choi HK (December 2012) Cherry consumption and decreased risk of recurrent gout attacks, Arthritis and Rheumatism.
4 Bell, P; Gaze, D; Davison, G; George, T; Scotter, M; Howatson, G (November 2014) Montmorency tart cherry (Prunus cerasus L.) concentrate lowers uric acid, independent of plasma cyanidin-3-O-glucosiderutinoside, Journal of Functional foods.
5 Schumacher HR, Pullman-Mooar S, Gupta SR, Dinnella JE, Kim R, McHugh MP (August 2013) Randomized double-blind crossover study of the efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
6 Vitale KC, Hueglin S, Broad E (July 2017) Tart Cherry Juice in Athletes: A Literature Review and Commentary, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of California San Diego.

 

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