Tart cherries may reduce chronic inflammation and can help people suffering from joint pain, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in San Francisco. Researchers said tart cherries have the “highest anti-inflammatory content of any food” and can help people with osteoarthritis manage their disease.
“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,” said principal study investigator Kerry Kuehl at Oregon Health & Science University. “I’m intrigued by the potential for a real food to offer such a powerful anti-inflammatory benefit, especially for active adults.”
The study consisted of 20 women, aged 40 to 70, who had inflammatory osteoarthritis. The researchers conducted a placebo-controlled, randomized trial for three weeks. During the trial period, the women drank either a placebo beverage or 10 1/2 ounces of tart cherry juice twice a day.
The study found significant reductions in serum inflammatory biomarkers, suggesting the benefits of tart cherry juice. The most notable reductions were in women who had the highest inflammation markers at the start of the study.
Tart cherries contain antioxidant compounds – called anthocyanins — that have been linked to reduced inflammation. Previous research from Baylor Research Institute found a 20 percent reduction in osteoarthritis pain in the majority of men and women after having a daily dose of tart cherries in the form of cherry extract.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and is often caused by wear and tear. For this reasons, athletes, who have inordinate joint use and cartilage breakdown, are often at greater risk for developing osteoarthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
“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 Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center for Sports Medicine. Bonci has incorporated tart cherries into the training menu of her professional athletes and clients.
More research about the health benefits of tart cherries can be found at Choose Cherries, a website funded by tart cherry growers and processors.