Eating cherries or drinking cherry juice daily can reduce overall inflammation in the body and at key sites, such as the belly and heart, that affect heart disease, according to a study from University of Michigan researchers.
"Chronic inflammation is a whole-body condition that can affect overall health, especially when it comes to the heart," study co-author Mitch Seymour, Ph.D., at the University of Michigan, said in a statement.
For the study, scientists fed obese rats, who were at risk of heart disease, a typical American diet — high in fats and moderate in carbs — but enriched with cherry powder for a total of 1 percent of the diet. After 90 days, risk factors for heart disease including cholesterol, body weight, fat mass, and known markers for inflammation were reduced.
A second study in humans found similar results. Ten overweight or obese adults drank eight ounces of tart cherry juice each day for four weeks. Markers for inflammation were reduced significantly, as well as triglycerides.
Researchers believe the anthocyanins — antioxidant compounds in cherries that are responsible for the fruit's red color — are the protective factor.
Studies have found that cherries have among the highest amounts of antioxidants when compared to other fruits. In addition to being linked to lower risks of heart disease, cherries have also been linked to lower risks of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and diabetes.
Study results indicate that "foods rich in antioxidants, such as cherries, could potentially reduce inflammation and have the potential to lower disease risk," said Seymour.