Did You Know…that a tart and delicious fruit has been shown to lower cholesterol and triglycerides, and reduce your chance of developing heart disease and diabetes?
Results from a study carried out at University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center suggest that a diet high in a specific type of cherry can significantly decrease your risk factors for both heart disease and diabetes.
For the study, researchers put 2 groups of rats on a high-fat diet intended to mimic a “western-style diet containing elevated saturated fat and cholesterol,” according to a report in Science Daily. One group’s diet was supplemented with whole tart cherry powder, made from Montmorency cherries.
Montmorency cherries (Prunus cerasus) are a part of the lighter-red variety of sour cherries — as opposed to the darker-red Morello variety. The tree which bears these cherries was named after Montmorency, a valley in France.
However, Montmorency cherries are grown not just in France, but also the United States (particularly in Michigan and in Wisconsin) and Canada.
The Sweet-Tart Juice of Health
Compared to their more common and milder-tasting cousins, tart cherries have lower sugar content and higher concentration of key chemical compounds. Consequently, most scientific studies use one of the tart varietals.
Montmorency cherries, with their unusually high concentration of melatonin, a powerful antioxidant, are thought to be the most medically promising of the bunch.
At the conclusion of the U-M study, the rats given the cherry supplement had a lower weight gain and lower build-up of body fat than the rats not given the cherries.
Additionally, their blood compared to the control rats showed lower total cholesterol…lower triglycerides…lower plasma inflammation markers (TNF-alpha and interleukin-6) linked to a number of dangerous health conditions… and lower fat mass.
Benefits for Lean Rats and Fat Rats
Another study conducted one year previous the one reported by Science Daily also found that cherry-fed rats had…
- Lower total cholesterol
- Lower blood sugar
- Less fat storage in the liver
- Lower oxidative stress
The rats in this earlier study, however, were all lean rats fed low-fat diets. Researchers conducted a follow-up study to determine whether the benefits of cherries could confer the same benefits for rats prone to obesity and eating higher fat diets.
For this reason, the second study included both lean rats and rats bred specifically toward obesity and insulin resistance.
Remarkably, the benefits of cherries were consistent for both fat and lean rats regardless of diet. Researcher Steven Bolling, M.D., a cardiac surgeon and the U-M lab’s director, said of the study, “The fact that these factors decreased despite the rats’ predisposition to obesity, and despite their high-fat ‘American-style’ diet is especially interesting.”
In fact, the research team found that those rats that were predisposed to obesity built up less belly fat — another key indicator of future heart problems.
Ultimately, the cherry-fed rats differed on several markers of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, including inflammation, blood lipids, obesity, and body composition.
The Secret Ingredient: Anthocyanins
It appears that health benefits of cherries’ are the result of anthocyanins — the antioxidant compounds responsible for the fruits’ deep, rich color.
These same pigments are found in several other varieties of darkly pigmented fruits, and according to E. Mitchell Seymour, M.S., senior scientist on the U-M study, “It was recently shown that regular intake of [these fruits] is associated with reduced mortality for cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.”
Easy as Pie?
The U-M researchers noted that for a person to consume the same amount of cherries as the rats in the study did, you would need to eat a cup and a half of tart cherries daily.
You can, however, choose tart cherry juice as a more convenient yet equally effective — and entirely delicious — alternative to eating whole, raw cherries. In order to receive the maximum nutritional benefits of tart cherry juice concentrate, be sure to purchase only unpasteurized concentrate made from verified Montmorency cherries.
Ideally, whatever form of tart cherry you choose should be as unprocessed as possible, so you’ll be assured of getting the highest concentration of antioxidants possible.
Tart cherries can be purchased fresh (in season) or frozen from natural health food stores. Cherry juice and extracts are available year round in stores as well as by online order from many sources.