ANN ARBOR, Mich. Tart cherries may be good for more than just making pie, according to new data from an animal study conducted by University of Michigan Health System researchers and presented today at a major scientific meeting.
In a study involving rats, the researchers report that animals that received powdered tart cherries in their diet had lower total cholesterol, lower blood sugar, less fat storage in the liver, lower oxidative stress and increased production of a molecule that helps the body handle fat and sugar, compared with rats that didn't receive cherries as part of an otherwise similar diet. All of the rats had a predisposition toward high cholesterol and pre-diabetes, but not obesity.
All the measures on which the two groups of animals differed are linked to metabolic syndrome, a collection of risk factors linked to high rates of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Tens of millions of Americans have metabolic syndrome; most don't know it.
The researchers say the correlation between cherry intake and significant changes in metabolic measurements suggest a positive effect from the high concentrations of antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins that are found in tart cherries. The new results were given today in an oral presentation at the Experimental Biology 2007 meeting in Washington, D.C.
It's not yet known if cherry-rich diets might have a similar impact in humans, but a U-M team will soon launch a small clinical trial to start to find out. Meanwhile, additional research is being carried out in animals prone to both obesity and diabetes.
The study's lead author is E. Mitchell Seymour, M.S., a U-M research associate and supervisor of the U-M Cardioprotection Research Laboratory, which studies the potential preventive benefits of antioxidant-rich foods. Support for the new study comes from an unrestricted grant from the Cherry Marketing Institute, a trade association for the cherry industry.
Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System