Cherries pack a super nutritional punch

January 18, 2011 7:58:05 AM PST
Timothy Bopp eats well, and exercises regularly. But he still can't get his cholesterol down.

"I'm a person who's what you call 'borderline' on triglycerides," Bopp says.

So when he heard about a study testing how tart cherry juice affects lipid levels, he jumped at the chance to participate.

"I was open to it right off the bat."

Volunteers drank 8 ounces of tart cherry juice for 4 weeks. Then they went 2 weeks without the juice, and then drank a placebo for 4 weeks. Along the way, their blood was tested. The early results from the pilot study were interesting.

"We did see triglycerides come down, which tends to be the fat in our diet," said Kevin Martin, Ph.D., a researcher at Arizona State University. "So that came down somewhere around 15 to 20% in this study."

"My triglycerides overall had been over, well over, 200 and they were somewhere around 170," according to Bopp.

Another bonus: Dr. Martin says cherries also lower inflammation and reduce oxidative stress, which is tied to many chronic diseases: "When one argues that, basically, (you should) let your diet be your medicine cabinet, there really is truth to that."

Not all cherry juice is created equal. Make sure it's 100% natural without added sugar or dig into the fruit itself.

"It can be any form," Martin says. "It can be cherries themselves, it can be water-packed cherries. I don't necessarily know that I would advocate cherry pie every day."

Dr. Martin says the cherries aren't a replacement for cholesterol-lowering medication. He plans to do another study to confirm his findings from this study in the future and try to find out why cherry juice seems to work.