Research identifies new link between tart cherries and risk factors for heart disease

October 22, 2008,

New research continues to link tart cherries, one of today's hottest "Super Fruits," to lowering risk factors for heart disease. In addition to lowering cholesterol and reducing inflammation, the study being presented by University of Michigan researchers at next week's American Dietetic Association annual meeting, found that a cherry-enriched diet lowered body weight and fat – major risk factors for heart disease.

In the study, at-risk, obese rats that were fed a cherry-enriched diet saw significant decreases in body weight and fat (especially the important "belly" fat with known risk for heart disease) while maintaining lean muscle mass. After twelve weeks, the cherry-fed rats had 14 percent lower body fat compared to the other rats who did not consume cherries (cherry-fed rats were approximately 54% body fat; rats eating the Western diet alone were 63% body fat). The researchers suggested cherry consumption could have an effect on important fat genes and genetic expression. According to the American Heart Association, being overweight or obese, in particular when the weight is concentrated in the middle, is a major risk factor for heart disease . Nearly two out of three Americans are overweight.

The animals were fed a "Western diet," characterized by high fat and moderate carbohydrate – in line with the typical American diet – with or without added whole tart cherry powder, as 1 percent of the diet. The study was funded by the Cherry Marketing Institute, which provided an unrestricted grant to the University of Michigan to conduct the research and was not directly involved in the design, conduct or analysis of the project.

"Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans today, so it's important we continue researching ways people can improve their diet to help reduce key risk factors," said study co-author Dr. Steven F. Bolling, a cardiac surgeon at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center who also heads the U-M Cardioprotection Research Laboratory, where the study was performed. "We know excess body fat increases the risk for heart disease. This research gives us one more support point suggesting that diet changes, such as including cherries, could potentially lower heart disease risk."

Cherry-enriched diets in the study also reduced total cholesterol levels by about 11 percent and two known markers of inflammation – commonly produced by abdominal fat and linked to increased risk for heart disease. Inflammation marker TNF-alpha was reduced by 40 percent and interleukin 6 (IL-6) was lowered by 31 percent. In their genetic analysis, the researchers found that the cherry-enriched diets reduced the genes for these two inflammation compounds, suggesting a direct anti-inflammation effect. While inflammation is a normal process the body uses to fight off infection or injury, according to recent science, a chronic state of inflammation could increase the risk for diseases and may be especially common for those who are overweight or obese, at least in part because of excess weight around the middle. Researchers say the animal study is encouraging and will lead to further clinical studies in humans to explore the link between diet, weight, inflammation and lowering heart disease risk.

The Power of Eating Red

Tart cherries, frequently sold as dried, frozen or juice, contain powerful antioxidants known as anthocyanins, which provide the bright, rich red color. Studies suggest these colorful plant compounds may be responsible for cherries' anti-inflammatory properties and other health benefits.

This new research is the latest linking this red hot "Super Fruit" to protection against heart disease and inflammation. In fact, research suggests the red compounds in cherries that deliver the anti-inflammatory benefits may also help ease the pain of arthritis and gout. There have been more than 65 published studies on the potential health benefits which can be found in the Cherry Nutrition Report posted on

Ref: Seymour EM, Lewis A, Kirakosyan A, Bolling S. The Effect of Tart Cherry-Enriched Diets on Abdominal Fat Gene Expression in Rats. American Dietetic Association FNCE 2008.

Source: Weber Shandwick Worldwide

Explore further: Study probes the role of key protein linked to heart disease, diabetes

Related Stories

Study probes the role of key protein linked to heart disease, diabetes

March 23, 2018
Diet-induced diabetes, obesity, and heart disease are leading causes of death worldwide. In their search for novel therapies for these related chronic illnesses, Yale researchers investigated a protein called ANGPTL4. The ...

Mono-unsaturated fats from plants, not animals may reduce risk of death from heart disease and other causes

March 21, 2018
Diets rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids from plants were associated with a lower risk of dying from heart disease or other causes compared to diets rich in mono-unsaturated fats from animals, which were linked to a higher ...

Fasting diets reduce important risk factor for cardiovascular disease

March 19, 2018
Intermittent energy restriction diets such as the 5:2 diet clears fat from the blood quicker after eating meals compared with daily calorie restriction diets, reducing an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease, ...

Western diet depletes artery-protecting immune cells

March 21, 2018
New research from scientists at the La Jolla Institute For Allergy and Immunology shows how a diet high in fat and cholesterol depletes the ranks of artery-protecting immune cells, turning them into promoters of inflammation, ...

Some gut feelings are a red flag, according to research

March 21, 2018
Are you guided by gut feelings?

Mediterranean diet is linked to higher muscle mass, bone density after menopause

March 18, 2018
The heart-healthy Mediterranean diet also appears to be good for an older woman's bones and muscles, a new study of postmenopausal women in Brazil finds. The study results will be presented Monday at ENDO 2018, the Endocrine ...

Recommended for you

Early studies of male birth-control pill show promise

March 23, 2018
Well, well, well. The ball has been knocked roundly into your court, gentlemen.

Whether sustained or sporadic, exercise offers same reductions in death risk

March 22, 2018
For decades, Americans have been inundated with a confusing barrage of messages about how best to counteract the health risks of sedentary lifestyles: walk 10,000 steps a day; do a seven-minute workout from a phone app; flip ...

Tai chi as good as or better than aerobic exercise for managing chronic pain

March 21, 2018
The ancient martial art of tai chi has similar or greater benefits than aerobic exercise for people with the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia, finds a trial published by The BMJ today.

Study: Poor health is a less common cause of bankruptcy than commonly thought, but it brings other economic woes

March 21, 2018
A team of researchers led by an MIT economist has found that medical expenses account for roughly 4 percent of bankruptcy filings among nonelderly adults in the U.S.

Study finds bad sleep habits start early in school-age children

March 21, 2018
Bad sleep habits in children begin earlier than many experts assume. That's the takeaway from a new study led by McGill University researchers. The findings suggest that official sleep guidelines for young school children ...

Medical expansion has improved health—with one exception

March 21, 2018
While Americans debate the rising cost of health care, a new study of 30 countries over 27 years found that medical expansion has improved overall health - with one major exception.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.