Tart cherry (Montmorency cherry) (Prunus cerasus):
Tart cherries, also known as sour or Montmorency cherries, have experienced recent increased popularity due to their numerous health benefits. The Montmorency cherry is a variety of sour cherry grown in Europe, Canada, and the United States. There are different forms of tart cherry available to buy such as dried, frozen, juiced and other supplemental forms.
Antioxidants are compounds that can help prevent cell damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals. Such exposure can lead to DNA damage causing chronic disease and conditions [i]. Sour cherry fruit contains chemicals that may help reduce swelling and act as an antioxidant. Common uses include reducing muscle soreness after exercise, improving athletic performance and reducing high blood pressure. Tart cherries contain up to 20 times more antioxidants such as vitamin A when compared to other sweet cherry varieties[ii] [iii].
Sleep Quality and Insomnia:
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland, it is associated with the sleep-wake cycle. In certain countries it is used as a dietary supplement as a short-term application for insomnia.
Data from studies suggests that consumption of a tart cherry juice concentrate provides an increase in melatonin production. Thus, tart cherry is said to be beneficial in improving sleep duration and quality in healthy men and women and might be of benefit in managing disturbed sleep [iv].
A pilot study treated each participant with different types of supplementation commonly used to alleviate sleep disturbances. Results were assessed via patient responses in line with the Insomnia Severity Index. It was said, when compared to supplements such as valerian and melatonin, tart cherry is potentially more effective at reducing rates of insomnia [v].
Muscle Soreness and Recovery from Exercise:
A randomised controlled trial found that Montmorency cherry is efficacious in accelerating recovery following prolonged, repeat sprint activity, such as football and rugby. Evidence suggests that these effects are related to the rich polyphenol antioxidant content in Montmorency cherry, and that similar effects may also be seen in following various other types of strenuous exercise [vi].
Similarly in another study runners given cherry juice experienced three times less pain during and after the race compared to those provided the placebo [vii].
Antioxidant content in tart cherry has benefits for heart health via the protection of tissues from oxidative damage, which can drive the development of cardiovascular diseases. Atherogenesis is the process of the formation of fatty deposits in the arteries, which commonly leads to strokes, heart conditions and high blood pressure. Results from a pilot study suggest that daily tart cherry consumption may prevent processes involved in accelerated atherogenesis. The writers noted further scientific investigation into the therapeutic use of tart cherry for heart and cardiovascular conditions to be warranted by these findings [viii].
Plant phenolic compounds in both sweet and sour cherry varieties were seen to have protective effects on neuronal cells (nerve cells) in test tube studies. Quercetin and kaempferol contained in the cherries, were said to harness partially beneficial antioxidant action for brain cell health [ix].
In a study in older adults with mild-to-moderate dementia, tart cherry was said to have the potential to improve specific cognitive outcomes. In the study, participants were provided with 200 ml of tart cherry juice or a placebo for 12 weeks. Those in the placebo group experienced no improvements, whereas those in the cherry juice group experienced improvements in verbal fluency and short-term and long-term memory [x] .
Bone Loss and Joint Health:
Montmorency tart cherry was seen in mice studies to protect against age-related bone loss in females. It also demonstrated some bone building effects. Benefits were seen when cherry extracts were administered at 5% and 10% [xi].
In a study, tart cherry juice provided symptom relief for patients with mild to moderate osteoarthritis of the knee [xii].
Studies have also investigated the administration of tart cherry for the relief of gout, as it appears to reduce blood levels of uric acid. Uric acid can trigger gout attacks when levels are too high [xiii].
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