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Show 1298: The Health Benefits of Tart Cherries (Archive)

This week we interview two scientists who describe the benefits of tart cherries for mental alertness and physical stamina.
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The Health Benefits of Tart Cherries (Archive)

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In our nationally syndicated radio show this week, we talk with two scientists who have been studying how eating cherries affects our physiology. Both are experts in sports medicine who have done some intriguing research that may convince you to include tart cherries in your diet.

Tart Cherries for Precovery:

First we speak with Dr. Malachy McHugh about the concept of “precovery.” His studies have shown that consuming 50 to 100 cherries or the equivalent in juice prior to strenuous exercise such as a long run speeds muscle recovery.

In addition, there is evidence that cherry consumption lowers systemic inflammation and uric acid. Reduced uric acid means that a person is less prone to the painful joint inflammation called gout. Clinical trials on this effect are sparse, however. A British research group has published a protocol for a randomized controlled trial of tart cherry juice against gout (BMJ Open, March 15, 2020). However, they have not yet published results.

Tart Cherries for Cognition:

One of Dr. McHugh’s colleagues, a British exercise physiologist, wondered whether the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of cherries would boost brain power. Dr. Glyn Howatson and his co-investigators recruited 50 middle-aged people and assigned them randomly to Montmorency cherry concentrate or cherry-flavored placebo. The volunteers performed computerized tests before and after the three-month trial. The researchers also measured their cerebral blood flow and analyzed blood samples (British Journal of Nutrition, Feb. 2022).

People getting the cherry concentrate were more alert and accurate. They also reported less mental fatigue than those on placebo. The researchers detected different amino acids in the blood of those supplemented with tart cherries.

They also noted:

“the ability to improve sustained attention during times of high cognitive demand…”

The dose in this study was 30 ml of concentrate (two tablespoons) twice a day. That’s the equivalent of 90 fresh cherries.

Dr. Howatson notes that tart cherries are not the only source of beneficial phytonutrients. Other foods, such as high-flavanol cocoa extract, also show benefit.

This Week’s Guests:

Dr. Malachy McHugh has been the Director of Research at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma (NISMAT) at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City since 1999. He leads a multidisciplinary research team including orthopaedic surgeons, physical therapists, exercise physiologists, nutritionists, biomechanists, medical engineers and athletic trainers. You can read his recent research on cherry juice and exercise recovery here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/sms.14141 The photo is of Dr. McHugh.

Professor Glyn Howatson is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES). He is on the Editorial Board for the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports and the European Journal of Sport Sciences. His research interests predominantly lie in the optimization of human performance where he focuses efforts on understanding the stress-recovery-adaptation continuum using training and nutritional interventions to manipulate human physiology. You will find his recent study here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35109960/

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available Monday, December 12, 2022, after broadcast on December 10. You can stream the show from this site and download the podcast for free.

Download the mp3

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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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  • Lamb KL et al, "Effect of tart cherry juice on risk of gout attacks: protocol for a randomised controlled trial." BMJ Open, March 15, 2020. DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2019-035108
  • Kimble R et al, "Polyphenol-rich tart cherries ( Prunus Cerasus, cv Montmorency) improve sustained attention, feelings of alertness and mental fatigue and influence the plasma metabolome in middle-aged adults: a randomised, placebo-controlled trial." British Journal of Nutrition, Feb. 2022. DOI: 10.1017/S0007114522000460
  • McHugh MP, "“Precovery” versus recovery: Understanding the role of cherry juice in exercise recovery." Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, Feb. 4, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.14141
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