Eating tart cherries could significantly boost antioxidant activity in the body, according to a new study. Researchers at University of Michigan found that 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 colour.
They randomly assigned 12 healthy adults, aged 18 to 25 years, to eat either one and a half cups or three cups of frozen tart cherries. The 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," Warber added. Previous animal studies have linked cherries and cherry compounds to important benefits, including helping to lower risk factors for heart disease and impacting inflammation.
Warber's colleagues at the University of Michigan have earlier 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 per cent 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 Warber. The study was reported at the 2009 Experimental Biology meeting in New Orleans.