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What Are Cherries Used for Today?
Tart cherries contain relatively high levels of substances known as anthocynanins, also found in bilberry , cranberry and other foods. Anthocyanins are antioxidants , and most health claims for cherries are based on this fact. However, the case that antioxidants provide health benefits has become weaker rather than stronger in recent years, and, therefore, merely finding antioxidant content in cherries is inadequate to show benefit. Only double-blind, placebo-controlled studies can actually provide evidence of efficacy, and for cherries, only one smal study of this type has been reported.
In this study, fourteen male athletes were given either tart cherry juice (12 oz) or placebo twice daily, and then performed intensive arm exercises. 1 The results of this trial indicated that use of cherry juice reduced pain and strength loss caused by the excessive exercise. Based on this, it has been suggested that cherry juice might be helpful for athletes in training by enhancing recovery from heavy exercise, due to its antioxidant actions. However, this was a very small study, and more research would be necessary to actually document benefit. Note that other antioxidants have failed to prove helpful for this purpose.
Cherries are also claimed to be helpful for gout , based primarily on a single "scientific" study performed in the 1950s. 2 In fact, however, this study was far too poorly designed to prove anything at all, because it did not utilize a placebo group. (For information on why a placebo group is essential, see Why Does This Database Rely on Double-Blind Studies? ) A much more recent study did find some evidence that cherry consumption might lower levels of urate in the blood. 3 Since high levels of urate are associated with gout, this finding does provide some suggestive evidence that cherries might be helpful. However, this study was small, preliminary and somewhat poorly designed. Furthermore, it does not directly show benefit: many substances reduce urate levels but do not help gout, and many cases of gout are not associated with elevated urate.
One animal study hints that the anthocyanins in tart cherries may have generalpain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. 4
- Connolly DA, McHugh MP, Padilla-Zakour OI, Carlson L, Sayers SP. Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. Br J Sports Med. 40(8):679-83; discussion 683.
- Blau LW. Cherry diet control for gout and arthritis. Tex Rep Biol Med. 1950;8:309–311
- Jacob RA, Spinozzi GM, Simon VA, et al. Consumption of cherries lowers plasma urate in healthy women. J Nutr. 2003;133:1826-9.
- Tall JM, Seeram NP, Zhao C, Nair MG, Meyer RA, Raja SN. Tart cherry anthocyanins suppress inflammation-induced pain behavior in rat. Behav Brain Res. 153(1):181-8.