Harnessing Health Benefits of Tart Cherries

Jack Losso, Keenan, Michael J.

Jack Losso, Johana Coronel, Diana Coulon, Michael Keenan and Frank Greenway

The tart cherry (Prunus cerasus) has been found to be healthful not only as a food and its juice as a beverage but also as a dietary supplement for the treatment of inflammatory diseases. The Montmorency tart cherry is the most commonly grown cherry and the variety most widely used. These cherries are low-calorie and sources of vitamins C and A, carotenoids and anthocyanins as well as melatonin and tryptophan.

LSU AgCenter scientists are conducting research on how cherries can improve several health conditions. A few clinical trials have reported health benefits of cherries.

Sleep: Insufficient sleep affects immune and hormone systems and increases the risk of inflammatory diseases, including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, depression and cognitive dysfunction. Individuals with these diseases have difficulty sleeping. Sleeping pills in contradistinction to cherry juice improve sleep with the sedation associated with falls in the elderly. Two servings of cherry juice, one in the morning and one in the afternoon for two weeks, given to a group of adults over 50 years old (N = 8) with insomnia, increased sleep duration by a mean of 84 minutes and improved quality of sleep. Cherry juice protects tryptophan from breakdown by the gastrointestinal enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase and enhances the secretion of serotonin. This study did not include individuals with diabetes because one serving of cherry juice contains 36 grams of sugar. Two servings of the juice, given to adults (N = 10) with sleep apnea, improved the biomarkers of inflammation including C-reactive protein and neopterin.

Inflammatory bowel disease: Chronic inflammation of the digestive tract involves two main types, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. One or two servings of whole cherries given as a smoothie to rats with ulcerative colitis improved the disease activity index and inhibited the major biomarkers of inflammation. Human trials with tart cherries are yet to be conducted.

Although many health benefits of cherry are known, there is more to learn, and larger and longer follow-up studies are needed to confirm identified health benefits of cherries.

Jack Losso, is a professor in the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences; Johana Coronel, a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Diana Coulon is an instructor in the LSU AgCenter Biotechnology Laboratory; Michael Keenan is a professor in the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences; and Frank Greenway is an M.D. and professor in the outpatient clinic at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

(This article appears in the fall 2019 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

1/10/2020 9:44:57 PM
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