Got Arthritis? Fresh Cherries May Help

By Marcia Wood

Plump, juicy Bing cherries, eaten fresh, may help people who suffer from the pain of gout or other forms of arthritic inflammation. That's according to preliminary results from research at the Agricultural Research Service's Western Human Nutrition Research Center in Davis, Calif. The 10 healthy women, aged 22 to 40, who volunteered for the first phase of this research ate a special breakfast of 45 fresh, pitted Bing cherries.

ARS chemists Robert A. Jacob (now retired) and Darshan S. Kelley collaborated with university scientists in that preliminary study and, recently, in a more extensive follow-up investigation. The experiments are among the first to track anti-inflammatory effects of fresh Bing cherries in carefully controlled tests with healthy volunteers. That's in contrast to previous studies, conducted elsewhere, in which scientists analyzed extracts from sweet or tart cherries in the laboratory.

Jacob and Kelley found that levels of uric acid–a compound the body uses to form painful urate crystals during a gout attack–decreased significantly in volunteers' blood (plasma) over the 5 hours after they ate the Bing-cherry breakfast. And, levels of urate removed from their bodies in urine increased over those 5 hours. The decrease in two key markers, or indicators, of inflammation–nitric oxide and C reactive protein–weren't large enough to be statistically significant. However, this downward trend agreed with that noted earlier in other scientists' test-tube studies of cherry extracts.

The cherry-breakfast study, reported last year in the Journal of Nutrition, paved the way for the California scientists' longer, follow-up study of more markers in samples from more volunteers–18 women and two men, aged 22 to 40, who ate a total of 45 cherries throughout the day for several weeks. Findings from this newer investigation should be available later this year.

Read more about the research in Agricultural Research magazine. The grower-sponsored California Cherry Advisory Board, Lodi, Calif., helped fund the research. ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
Source: United States Dept. of Agriculture website, Originally published 05/07/04.

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