Cherries May Manage Pain And Reduce Inflammation
May 31, 2012

Cherries May Manage Pain And Reduce Inflammation

Connie K. Ho for

“An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.” This well known phrase highlights the importance of fruits and vegetables in the diet. One fruit in particular, tart cherries, has been discovered to have immense benefits. The Oregon Health & Science University recently presented research at the American College of Sports Medicine Conference (ACSM) showing that tart cherries could decrease inflammation for those who are suffering from arthritis and joint pain. The researchers also believe that tart cherries have the "highest anti-inflammatory content of any food” and can assist people with osteoporosis in managing the disease.

The researchers looked at a group of twenty women between the ages of 40 and 70 who had inflammatory osteoarthritis. The findings showed that drinking tart cherry juice two times a day over a period of three weeks could cause significant reductions in inflammation markers. This was seen particularly in women who had demonstrated the highest inflammation levels at the beginning of the experiment.

"With millions of Americans looking for ways to naturally manage pain, it's promising that tart cherries can help, without the possible side effects often associated with arthritis medications," noted Dr. Kerry Kuehl, a principal study investigator from the Oregon Health & Science University, in a prepared statement. "I'm intrigued by the potential for a real food to offer such a powerful anti-inflammatory benefit — especially for active adults."

Tart cherries are believed to be effective because they have large amounts of antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins, which have been connected to high antioxidant capacity and a lower amount of inflammation. Past research done by a group at Baylor Research Institute focused on the relationship between tart cherries and osteoarthritis. The scientists found that a daily dose of tart cherries could help lower the amount of pain related to arthritis by more than 20 percent for both men and women.

With the findings, cherries are seen as a possible resource to relieve muscle and joint soreness for athletes. Leslie Bonci, the Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center for Sports Medicine, found it useful to mix tart cherries into the training menu of her professional athletes and clients. She believes that the cherries are a tasty, natural way for them to have joint and muscle pain relieved from the body.

"Why not eat red when there's so much science to support the anti-inflammatory benefits of this Super Fruit? And for athletes whose palates prefer the tart-sweet flavor profile of tart cherries, it's the optimal ingredient,” said Bonci in a statement.

For researcher Kuehl, this study regarding tart cherries is just the tip of the iceberg. Kuehl has done other studies in the past that have examined the relationship between tart cherry juice and pain management. A past study involved participants who were training for a long distance run. He found that people who consumed tart cherry juice while training for the run reported having less pain than those who didn´t drink the cherry juice during training.

Those interested in trying tart cherries for themselves will be happy to know that the cherries are available year-round, and come in frozen and juice formats. It´s considered a super fruit that can fight inflammation, decrease pain from arthritis and gout, as well as limit muscle and joint pain following intense physical activity. The “Red Report: The Science of Tart Cherries” offers a number of ways in which people can incorporate tart cherries into their diet. Some of the paper´s recommendations include adding berries to breakfast items, switching from blue berries to red berries in dishes, making a fresh cherry spritzer to quench thirst, and eating cherries as part of a yogurt parfait.