New Research Shows the Power of Cherries
Cherry Advantage 4
Summer 2002
Courtesy of the Cherry Marketing Institute:

Recently published research conducted at Michigan State University (1) investigated a range of fruits and berries for the level and activity of anthocyanins found in each. Researchers analyzed the ability of the fruits to inhibit cyclooxygenase and act as antioxidants to destroy free radicals. The researchers then quantified the anthocyanin levels of tart and sweet cherries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, elderberries and bilberries.

Cyclooxygenase is produced in the body in two or more forms, termed COX-1 and COX-2, for different purposes. COX-1 is built in many different cells to create prostaglandins, which is used for basic "housekeeping" messages throughout the body. The second enzyme, COX-2, is built only in special cells and is used for signaling pain and inflammation. Some pain relief medication works by blocking the messages carried by COX-1, COX-2, or both, and thus the body does not feel pain or inflammation. The anthocyanins that are able to block COX-1 and COX-2 are called Anthocyanins 1 and 2, respectively.

Researchers discovered that the antioxidant activity of anthocyanins from cherries was superior to vitamin E at a test concentration of 125 g/ml. The COX inhibitory activities of anthocyanins from cherries were comparable to those of ibuprofen and naproxen at 10 M concentrations.

Anthocyanins 1 and 2 are present in both cherries and raspberries. The yields of pure anthocyanins 1 and 2 in 100 g in cherries and raspberries were the highest of the fruits tested at 26.5 and 24 mg, respectively. Fresh blackberries and strawberries contained only anthocyanin 2 at a total level of 22.5 and 18.2 mg/100 g, respectively; whereas anthocyanins 1 and 2 were not found in bilberries, blueberries, cranberries or elderberries.

Cherries: The Healing Fruit
Cherry Advantage 3
Courtesy of the Cherry Marketing Institute:

The good news about the health benefits of cherries continues to increase. According to ongoing research, Montmorency tart cherries are a rich source of antioxidants, which can help fight cancer and heart disease. In addition, there are beneficial compounds in Montmorency tart cherries that help relieve the pain of arthritis and gout. Other fruits and vegetable do not have the pain relief of tart cherries. While the research on the exact mechanisms that give the pain relief is ongoing, many consumers are discovering that tart cherry juice and other cherry products can stave off pain.

Research also shows that tart cherries are a rich source of powerful antioxidants, including kaempferol, quercetin and melatonin. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant considered more potent that vitamins C, E, and A, because it is soluble both in fat and water.
The latest information on the health benefits of cherries is summarized in this newsletter. Read on for details on how ruby-red cherries are the healing fruit.

When Fighting Pain, Being Inhibited Is Not a Bad Thing

When pain from arthritis and gout strikes the body, most people don't care how their medicine works, as long as it does work. What many pain sufferers take for granted is the complex chemical process that allows their pain medication to work. It's the same chemistry that is making tart cherries the preferred "medication" for a booming generation of pain sufferers.

Drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen are called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They work by inhibiting two enzymes, Cyclooxygenase I and II (popularly known as COX 1 and COX 2), which are produced by the body as a response to pain. NSAIDs prevent chemical messages from binding to Cyclooxygenase. The normal messages are not delivered, so the body does not feel the pain and doesn't become inflamed (3).

Unfortunately, many patients must take pain medication daily, which can cause numerous side effects, including upset stomachs, vomiting, kidney damage and, possibly, ulcers. This is because NSAIDs inhibit both COX 1 and COX 2, but the COX 1 enzyme is also important for maintaining normal cell function within several organs (3).

Tart cherries contain flavonoid compounds that function in the same manner as NSAIDs and can inhibit both COX enzymes. However, research also shows that flavonoids can protect against stomach damage, unlike their NSAID counterparts (4). It is suspected that the high levels of antioxidants found in cherries, particularly melatonin, provide a protective function and prevent unwanted symptoms. This makes concentrated cherry products superior to over-the-counter pain relief because cherries block pain in the same manner and reduce potential side-effects (6).


Pain Relief Never Tasted So Good!
Cherry Advantage 3
Courtesy of the Cherry Marketing Institute:

By Tina Miller, MS RD
Nutrition lecturer, Dietetics Department
Eastern Michigan University

Look at the person to your left, then to your right - chances are good that one of you battles arthritis pain every day. According to a recent survey, 70 million (one in three) Americans suffer from some form of joint disease, including osteoarthritis and gout. Pain from arthritis reduces mobility and quality of life. In fact, arthritis can be more than pain in your joints - it can be a pain in the wallet too! Americans spend over $1 billion every year on alternative therapies to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis.

Unfortunately, there is no cure. However, there are reasonable natural, and even flavorful, methods to managing your arthritis or gout pain. Research has taught us that inflammation associated with arthritic disorders is the chief cause of discomfort. Foods that decrease inflammation can reduce the pain associated with arthritis. In particular, the Montmorency tart cherry is a leader among foods that possess anti-inflammatory properties. Bioactive anthocyanins (pigments) present in tart cherries are the powerhouses that help relieve inflammation. As an added bonus, these same anthocyanins may significantly reduce your risk for colon cancer, the third leading cancer in America.

How much do you need? While there is no set "prescription" for the use of tart cherries, most people benefit from consuming two tablespoons of tart cherry juice concentrate daily. If you're on a low-acid diet, you can still use cherry juice concentrate, just be sure to consume it in combination with other foods, or at the end of a meal. Frozen and dried tart cherries are also effective for relieving arthritis and gout pain. The key is consistency. Make consumption of tart cherries part of your healthy eating plan everyday.

Tart Cherry Anthocyanins Inhibit Tumor Development
Cherry Advantage 5

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New studies at Michigan State University (MSU), which were recently published in Cancer Letters, suggest that tart cherries may reduce the risk of colon cancer because of the anthocyanins and cyanidin contained in the cherry. Dr. Mauraleedharan Nair and Dr. Leslie Bourquin along with several graduate students worked on experiments that are part of ongoing research on the components of tart cherries.

"Based on previous observations that tart cherries can inhibit the Cox enzymes, we conducted experiments to test the potential of tart cherry anthocyanins to inhibit intestinal tumor development in mice," says Dr. Bourquin, an associate professor in food science at MSU. The laboratory mice can very quickly produce the same type of tumors as humans. Mice consuming the tart cherry anthocyanins had significantly fewer and smaller cecal adenomas (colon tumors) than the mice consuming the control diet. The dosage given to the mice does not translate into a specific amount of cherries for humans. Data from animal studies, like this one, may spur human clinical trials. Meanwhile, consumers may have similar effects by eating cherries and drinking cherry juice.

Dr. Nair, a professor in the department of Horticulture and with the National Food Safety and Toxicology Center at MSU, has been researching the biologically active components of tart cherries and their healthful effects for more than 12 years; it's currently one of the primary areas of his research. "We are looking for a non-toxic compound for the prevention and treatment of cancer. Right now that's an oxymoron, but we will see something useful eventually," Dr. Nair says. He believes that a steady supply of tart cherries can improve the overall quality of life. "Everyone is looking for the best quality of life."

Pain is often a big factor in the quality of life and Dr. Nair thinks that the pain relieving power of tart cherry anthocyanins may have direct applications in cancer. While the research on tart cherry anthocyanins at MSU is ongoing, Dr. Nair also has teamed up with researchers at other universities to study the pain relief of tart cherries (especially as related to cancer). A project at Johns Hopkins University in which Dr. Nair collaborated with Dr. S. Raja studied tart cherry anthocyanins in relation to chronic pain. The research, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, will be published soon.

The current interest in the health benefits of whole foods, including cherries, will continue, according to Dr. Bourquin. "It will eventually be possible to identify the compounds in dietary ingredients that can reduce chronic disease. We will continue to move in that direction."

Diet and Disease

While research on the health benefits of tart cherries is ongoing, the link between some common life-threatening diseases and diet is strong and well documented. Eating a healthful diet and being physically active can reduce cancer risks, according to the American Cancer Society. Evidence suggests that one-third of the 550,000 cancer deaths in the United States each year are a result of unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity.

The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends a plant-based diet of fruits (including cherries), vegetables, whole grains and legumes. A low-fat diet that includes at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily can decrease the overall incidence of cancer by 20 percent, according to the Institute.

The case is even stronger with colorectal cancer, for which the main causes are believed to be diet and related factors. Research suggests that up to 50 percent of the colorectal cancers could be prevented by diets high in fruits and vegetables and low in fat.

Gout and Cherries
Source: Cherry Advantage 3
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Gout is a type of arthritis (inflammation of the joints) that mostly affects men age 40 and older. It is nearly always associated with an abnormally high concentration of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is produced in the liver and enters the bloodstream. Under certain circumstances, the body produces too much uric acid or excretes too little. As uric acid concentrations increase, needlelike crystals of a salt called monosodium urate (MSU) form. In time, MSU crystals accumulate and cause inflammation and pain, symptoms typical of gout.

Cherries contain flavonoid compounds that may lower uric acid and reduce inflammation, so cherry juice concentrate could be effective in reducing the pain associated with gout.

Cherries lowers Blood Urate Levels
Source: Cherry Advantage 5

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New research adds to the in vitro evidence that compounds in cherries may inhibit inflammatory pathways. Dr. Robert A. Jacob with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Western Human Nutrition Center at the University of California at Davis and a team of researchers reported the findings from their study in the June 2003 issue of The Journal of Nutrition. Ten healthy women, ages 20 to 40, consumed 45 fresh sweet cherries. The results show that all the women had lower blood uric acid levels after consuming the cherries; the average reduction in blood uric acid levels was 15 percent. Gout, a painful disease of the joints, is associated with high uric acid levels. These high uric acid levels also can indicate future heart attacks and strokes. Information about the study also was featured in the December 2003 issue of Prevention magazine.
Dr. Jacob believes that the anthocyanins in the cherries is what caused the decrease in blood urate and that eating cherries may help lower heart attack and stroke risk. Jacob says canned or dried tart cherries and tart cherry juice contain the same anthocyanins as the fresh sweet cherries used in the study. One serving of cherries a day should have some benefit, according to Dr. Jacob.


Cox Inhibition May Fight Heart Attacks
Cherry Advantage 3
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Research by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has demonstrated that aspirin, ibuprofen and other COX inhibitors may aid substantially in preventing heart disease, slowing the build-up of plaque in blood vessels by more than 50 percent.
"The cyclooxegenase enzyme known as COX-1 may play a role in the gradual hardening of the arteries that precedes acute events like heart attack or stroke," said Garret A. FitzGerald, MD, chairman of Penn's Department of Pharmacology. Medicines that inhibit the COX enzyme, such as aspirin, do not speed up the development of arteriosclerosis and can help protect against heart attack and stroke.

Using mice that had been engineered to produce high levels of cholesterol, the scientists analyzed the mice's aortas at the conclusion of the 16-week study. The researchers found that lesions were reduced by 55 percent in mice exposed to the COX inhibitor, compared to lesions in the untreated mice.

Although more data in needed in support of the extrapolation, it is entirely logical that the same enzymes that make cherries effective in blocking the pain messages carried by the COX enzyme would also make cherries effective in protecting against heart attack and stroke.

David Ropa, a consultant with Thomas J. Payne Development, compiled the information on the most recent research projects on cherries.


(1) Seeram N. P., et al. Cyclooxygenase inhibitory and antioxidant cyaniding glycosides in cherries and berries. Phytomedicine. 2001 Sept 8

(2) H. M. Berman, et al, "The Protein Data Bank," Nucleic Acids Research, 28, 2000: 235-242.
(3) Perazella, Mark A., "COX-2 Inhibitors and the Kidney," Hospital Practice, September 15, 2001.
(4) Blank, M.A., et al, "flavonoid-induced gastroprotection in rats: Role of blood flow and leukocyte adherence," Digestion, 58 1997: 147-154.
(5) Wang, Haibo, "Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory Compounds in tart Cherries," doctoral dissertation, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 1998.

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