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Should You Drink Cherry Juice for Your Brain?

According to a study, older people who drink cherry juice score better on tests of cognitive function after three months.
Should You Drink Cherry Juice for Your Brain?
Cold cherry juice in a glass and pitcher on wooden table with ripe berries in wicker basket

Tart cherry juice has a reputation for fighting inflammation. A small randomized controlled trial suggests that Montmorency tart cherry juice may also benefit the brain. Should you drink cherry juice to ward off cognitive decline?

Older People Who Drink Cherry Juice:

Investigators at the University of Delaware recruited three dozen volunteers (Food & Function, July 9, 2019). All of the participants were between 65 and 80 years old and had normal cognitive function.

The investigators assigned them randomly to drink cherry juice or placebo for the next three months. Specifically, the volunteers consumed a cup of tart cherry juice each morning and evening or a cup of cherry-flavored Kool-Aid. To assess their cognitive abilities, they took a battery of standardized tests both at the beginning of the study and at the close.

What Were the Results?

At the end of the study, those drinking cherry juice scored better on cognitive tests than the group on placebo. Happily, the cherry-juice drinkers also reported improvements in everyday memory. 

Why Could Cherry Juice Boost Brain Power?

Like blueberries and blackberries, cherries contain anthocyanins as well as polyphenols. These compounds appear to reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure. In addition, some studies show that Concord grape juice, also rich in anthocyanins, can boost brain power. In contrast to Concord grapes, Montmorency tart cherries also contain melatonin and have been shown to improve sleep among older individuals (European Journal of Nutrition, Dec. 2012). Better sleep, lower blood pressure and less inflammation could all contribute to better cognition.

In summary, the current clinical study that had older people drink cherry juice reinforces prior research in animals showing that tart cherry juice may have benefits for health.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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  • Chai SC et al, "Effect of Montmorency tart cherry juice on cognitive performance in older adults: A randomized controlled trial." Food & Function, July 9, 2019. DOI:10.1039/C9FO00913B
  • Howatson G et al, "Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality." European Journal of Nutrition, Dec. 2012. DOI: 10.1007/s00394-011-0263-7
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