Insomnia Help From Tart Cherry Juice
April 29, 2014

Drinking Tart Cherry Juice Twice A Day Can Be A Useful Sleep Aid, Especially For Seniors

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

The healthful benefits of various fruit juices have been touted for years. For example, Freshjuice tells us that pomegranate juice has antioxidants to prevent inflammation, ginger sooths an upset stomach, and beetroot juice can help lower blood pressure. A new study from Louisiana State University (LSU) has revealed the healthful properties of tart cherry juice for treating insomnia.

The study results, presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Nutrition that is being held in conjunction with the Experimental Biology 2014 meeting, demonstrate that drinking Montmorency tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks increases the amount of time that older adults with insomnia are able to sleep by nearly 90 minutes.

For adults 65 and older, insomnia is a common health problem affecting between 23 and 34 percent of the population. If a person has trouble sleeping, on average, more than three nights per week, they are considered to have insomnia. This condition can have effects ranging from mildly annoying for some to serious health concerns for others, especially the elderly.

People who suffer from insomnia have higher rates of chronic pain, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and a decline of cognitive function, or dementia. Many try sleeping pills to help with insomnia, but these pills have been found to increase the risk of falling in the elderly. Frank L. Greenway, MD, director of the outpatient research clinic at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at LSU, said that this increased risk makes it important to find more natural sleep-aids.

"Sleeping pills may be an option for younger insomniacs, but for older people these medications quadruple the risk of falling, which can lead to broken hips and, often, earlier death," Greenway said in a recent statement.

The research team selected seven older adults, with an average age of 68, who suffered from insomnia for a randomized crossover clinical trial. First, the participants consumed 8 ounces of tart cherry juice, twice a day for two weeks. This was followed by a two-week wash-out period. The participants then consumed a placebo beverage for a final two weeks. The research team studied the sleep of the study participants in a controlled setting using overnight polysomnography to evaluate sleep efficiency, such as sleep onset and duration. Blood work was conducted on each subject, and each filled out a questionnaire concerning sleep, fatigue, depression and anxiety.

Participants who consumed the Montmorency tart cherry juice both in the morning and at night were found to be able to sleep more than an hour longer each night — at an average of 84 minutes longer — when compared to the placebo. Their sleep was also found to be more efficient.

Melatonin is a hormone that helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle and Montmorency tart cherries are a natural source. Previous research has indicated a link between the juice and sleep enhancement. Greenway and his team, however, wanted to understand exactly why. The melatonin plays a role in the sleep enhancement, but is it the only component that does?

The team, which includes Jack Losso and John Finley, professors in the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences at LSU Agricultural Center, believe that the ruby red pigments, known as proanthocyanidins, play a role as well. Montmorency tart cherries contain a very high content of these natural polyphenolic compounds. The researchers found that the consumption of tart cherry juice increased the availability of tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid and a precursor to serotonin that helps with sleep. Tryptophan is found in many foods, such as turkey, but is degraded by an enzyme called indoleamine 2,3 dioxygenase. This degradation is known to predict insomnia, as well as being related to inflammation. The research team found that the tart cherry juice inhibited the enzyme in cells.

"Even though the amount of tryptophan in tart cherry juice is smaller than a normal dose given to aid sleep, the compounds in tart cherries could prevent the tryptophan from breaking down so it's able to work in the body more effectively," Greenway explained. "These compounds may help to improve tryptophan bioavailability for serotonin synthesis, which could have a positive effect on sleep. Increasing serotonin also helps improve mood and decrease inflammation."

The unique combination of melatonin and tryptophan found in the cherry juice is responsible for the sleep enhancements, Greenway believes. He recommends drinking a glass each morning and evening as a safer and more natural treatment for insomnia.