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.
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.
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. 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/
If I ate 50 to 100 tart cherries before an activity I wouldn’t be able to do the run because I’d have to stay near a bathroom…they’re a laxative for me and my running mates.
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