Scientists discover eating cherries may elevate antioxidant activity in the body

April 19, 2009, NEW ORLEANS — Eating just one and a half servings of tart cherries could significantly boost antioxidant activity in the body, according to new University of Michigan research reported at the 2009 Experimental Biology meeting in New Orleans. In the study, healthy adults who ate a cup-and-a-half of frozen cherries had increased levels of antioxidants, specifically five different anthocyanins – the natural antioxidants that give cherries their red color.

Twelve healthy adults, aged 18 to 25 years, were randomly assigned to eat either one and a half cups or three cups of frozen tart cherries. Researchers analyzed participants’ blood and urine at regular intervals after they ate the cherries and found increased antioxidant activity for up to 12 hours after eating cherries.

“This study documents for the first time that the antioxidants in tart cherries do make it into the human bloodstream and is coupled with increased antioxidant activity that could have a positive impact,” said Sara L. Warber, MD, Co-Director of University of Michigan Integrative Medicine and principal investigator of the study. “And, while more research is needed, what’s really great is that a reasonable amount of cherries could potentially deliver benefits, like reducing risk factors for heart disease and inflammation.”

Previous animal studies have linked cherries and cherry compounds to important benefits, including helping to lower risk factors for heart disease and impacting inflammation. Dr. Warber’s colleagues at the University of Michigan have previously shown in animals that cherry-enriched diets can lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce triglycerides, an unhealthy type of blood fat. Other benefits of cherries found in animal studies include a 14 percent lower body weight and less “belly fat,” the type linked with increased heart disease risk and type 2 diabetes.

“It’s encouraging when research like ours finds that great-tasting fruit can lead to real-life benefits, continuing to underscore the importance of whole foods in the diet,” said Dr. Warber.

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