Posted on Jun 13, 2019, 6 p.m.
Cherry’s have been confirmed in several studies to be anti-inflammatory and help to increase sleep duration as well as quality, which makes them nature’s own anti-inflammatory sleep aid.
University of Extremadura researchers conducted a study on 30 participants: ten between the ages of 20-30, ten between the ages of 35-55, and ten between the ages of 65-85. Participants were put into 2 groups at random who were either given a tart cherry juice or a placebo with cherry flavor twice a day. Those in the cherry juice experienced better sleep quality which was measured by sleep efficiency, awakenings, and total sleep duration; and the older group was found to experience greater improvements than the younger group.
“...cherry juice has been shown to decrease oxidative stress and inflammation following strenuous exercise making it possible that these antioxidant and/or anti-inflammatory properties modulated indices of sleep in this study…” according to the researchers.
Scientists from the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine, Northumbria University, University of Surrym and University of Johannesburg conducted a collaborative study following 20 men and women with an average age of 27. Half of the participants were assigned to drink either tart cherry juice concentrate from Montmorency cherries or a placebo at random for 7 days; those from the cherry group experienced on average 34 minutes more per night sleeping, and had a 5-6% increase in sleep efficiency. Internal melatonin levels in the cherry group were found to be significantly increased, and within 48 hours of consumption urine of the cherry drinkers showed increased levels of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin which is the primary melatonin metabolite. Melatonin levels were also measured by studying participant circadian rhythms. Consumption of tart cherry juice was concluded to increase exogenous melatonin which is beneficial to improving sleep duration and quality.
University of Texas Health Science Center confirmed that Montmorency cherries contain melatonin; it was determined that the tart cherries contain up to 13.5 nanograms of melatonin per gram, which is typically more than the levels found in the bloodstream.
University of Extremadura found another tart cherry, Jerte Valley cherries, also increased sleep quality and duration among elderly adults.
Cherries appear to increase melatonin levels and increase sleep quality, however research on supplemental synthetic melatonin or melatonin extracted from the pineal gland of cows has been conflicting. However, these exogenous forms have been shown to improve sleep phase phase disorders, but sleep quality results are equivocal.
Research from USDA’s Western Human Nutrition Research Center studied 18 participants between the ages of 45-61 who were given 280 grams a day of Bing sweet cherries for 28 days. After 28 days the participants were found to have had significantly lower levels of several inflammatory factors: CRP levels and ferritin levels PAI-1 were 20% lower; endothelin-1 levels were 14% lower; epidermal growth factor was 13% lower; IL-1 levels were 28% lower; and advanced glycation end product receptor levels were 29% lower, all of which indicate reduced inflammation within the body.
Oregon Health & Science University confirmed these results in research which was presented at the American College of Sports Medicine Conference: This study involved 20 women between the ages of 40-70 who all drank tart cherry juice twice a day for 2 weeks; results showed drinking the tart juice led to a significant reduction in inflammation markers, and the reductions were greatest among those with the highest inflammation levels at the beginning of the study.
"With millions of Americans looking for ways to naturally manage pain, it's promising that tart cherries can help, without the possible side effects often associated with arthritis medications," said lead researcher Kerry Kuehl, M.D. of Oregon Health & Science University. "I'm intrigued by the potential for a real food to offer such a powerful anti-inflammatory benefit – especially for active adults."
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis, athletes can be at risk for developing osteoarthritis, and Dr. Kuehl has found that athletes who drank tart cherry juice during training reported significantly less pain after exercise.
Anthocyanin antioxidant compounds in cherries anti-inflammatory levels have been shown to be comparable to some pain medications, and Baylor Research Institute has found tart cherry extract to reduce osteoarthritis by over 20%.
According to Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN, Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center for Sports Medicine the addition of tart cherries into the training menu of professional athletes and active clients has helped to manage pain. “Why not eat red when there's so much science to support the anti-inflammatory benefits of this Super Fruit? And for athletes whose palates prefer the tart-sweet flavor profile of tart cherries, it's the optimal ingredient.”
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