Antioxidants in Tart Cherries

The Doctor is in – A Cherry a Day, Keeps the Doctor Away… – By Dr Jimmy Gutman, MD FACEP

When we think of Cherriescherries, the legend of young George Washington chopping down his father’s cherry tree comes to mind.

Actually the whole cherry tree incident was a story thought up by one of George Washington’s biographers in order to make the biography more interesting and to express a moral; not a historical fact – simply a myth.

Now what about cherries themselves? What about all the stories about their health benefits?

Are these also myths? What is the scientific evidence behind the claims?

My most reliable source determining medical credibility is “PubMed” – the internet warehouse of worldwide scientific journals.

This site requires all my patience, experience and creativity to squeeze out any good juice. It can be the pits, and with this, I’ll stop using any more puns!

Using key words like “sour cherry” and “prunus cerasus” led me down several paths. Some looked at certain illnesses and the response to tart cherries.

Some looked at the specific components found in tart cherries that had health potential. All had me scratching my head, asking myself, “why didn’t I know this before?”

As a Newsweek article stated, “The day when doctors say “take 10 cherries and call me in the morning”, may not be far off.”

The discovery of the health benefits of tart cherries is part of a larger awareness of the role of foods that offer specific health benefits. Let’s look at some of the more interesting findings!

Melatonin Molecule

Melatonin has been shown to have significant anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties, as well as improving natural sleep patterns.

Research at the University of Texas by world-renown melatonin expert, Dr Russell J. Reiter, has demonstrated that tart cherries contain exceptionally high levels of melatonin, and it is present in the form most readily utilized by the body. For more information on the different types of doctors, click on the link.

Most melatonin supplements on the market are not sold in this natural state.

Scientists at Michigan State University were the first to identify the presence of numerous natural compounds in tart cherries with antioxidant properties.

In fact, Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) test show that tart cherry juice contains over four times the amount of antioxidants found in prunes, blueberries and strawberries, and close to ten times that of oranges and grapes!

Anthocyanin’s are naturally occurring compounds that give fruits, vegetables and plants their vivid pigmentation. Nutritionists always harp of the importance of eating loud colours!

According to the Journal of Natural Products, the “antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the anthocyanin and cyanidin suggest that consumption of cherries may have the potential to reduce cardiovascular disease in humans”.

Proanthocyanins are a group of flavonoids that also show up in red wine. These too, are powerful free radical scavengers and antioxidants.

People who follow a mediterranean style diet, which contains anthocyanins and proanthocyanins, have been noted for good health and longevity.

Their diets and general health are sometimes referred to as the French Paradox because they consume large amounts of saturated fats and yet exhibit low rates of heart disease.

The USDA National Nutrition Database indicates that tart cherry is higher in Vitamin A, betacarotene, thiamin, and phosphorus than strawberries, blueberries, and apples. Vitamin A plays an important role in vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division and cell differentiation.

The Vitamin A and betacarotene levels are astounding… tart cherries have almost 20 times as much Vitamin A and betacarotene as strawberries and blueberries!

This article contains excerpts from the article “The Doctor Is In” by Dr Jimmy Gutman.