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New study shows cherry consumption may reduce risk of inflammatory diseases

Results of a recent study conducted by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Western Human Nutrition Center scientifically support anecdotal information that consumption of sweet Bing cherries significantly decreases circulating concentrations of specific inflammatory biomarkers in human blood.

CherryResearch“It represents seven years of research and work by the growers and the USDA to better understand the nutritional benefits of our sweet cherries,” said James Michael, vice president of marketing, North America for Northwest Cherry Growers and the Washington State Fruit Commission. “We’re proud to pass the word along.”

“Many studies by other investigators have demonstrated that some of those inflammation markers are associated with increased risk for some chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer,” said Kent Erickson, professor at the University of California Davis School of Medicine and a collaborator on the study.

The findings of the study were published in the March 2013 issue of The Journal of Nutrition.

Michael said the study was spearheaded by Darshan Kelley, a research chemist at the center and adjunct professor in the UC Davis Department of Nutrition. “The study was initiated in 2006 and supported financially by the Northwest Cherry Growers,” Michael said. The purpose was to examine the effects of fresh sweet cherry consumption on concentrations of risk factors for chronic diseases.

Researchers studied 16 women and two men who had slightly elevated C-reactive protein levels, an inflammatory biomarker, and who were between the ages of 45 and 61. According to initial results, a reduction of the protein levels was detected in the subjects after consumption of sweet cherries.

“In 2010, researchers used automated methodology to examine a broad spectrum of 89 biomarkers of diseases with stored frozen plasma samples,” Northwest Cherry Growers wrote. “A second round of more detailed analysis demonstrated that cherries had more systemic impact than originally observed. The further testing showed that the sweet cherries had an effect on nine biomarkers rather than just the three originally identified.”

Kelley’s results showed that sweet cherry consumption may “reduce risk or modify the severity of inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, CVD, blood pressure and cancer,” according to Northwest Cherry Growers.

Michael said a new sweet cherry powder has also been created for use in further scientific studies.

Northwest Cherry Growers has placed a strong emphasis on creating point-of-sale material that explains cherries’ value as a superfood to consumers. “The health angle has been more of a focus this season,” Michael told The Produce News June 19.

A new poster has been developed and is available to retailers this season. “We wanted to take complex information and make it more consumable,” he commented.