There are many amazing things in nature, and a USDA scientist in California is exploring evidence that Bing cherries contain some wondrous health possibilities.
“We’re testing whether the consumption of sweet cherry juice can improve human health across several cognitive and physiological systems in the body,” said Kevin Laugero, a systems physiologist and research nutritionist with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Western Human Nutrition Research Center in Davis, CA. The study explores evidence that Bing cherries contain bioactive compounds that improve human health. Fresh cherries aren’t available all year, so demonstrating the effects of cherry juice would potentially circumvent limited access to the benefits of this otherwise seasonal fruit.
The overall goal of Laugero’s study is to test the effects of sweet cherry juice on cardiovascular disease risk factors and cognitive functions in at-risk persons, specifically examining biomarkers that indicate conditions associated with metabolic syndrome.
“Metabolic syndrome is a term used to describe the presence of a cluster of factors associated with increased risk for developing cardiovascular and other chronic diseases,” Laugero said.
The American Heart Association defines metabolic syndrome as the presence of three or more of the following conditions: abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, low HDL cholesterol levels, and high fasting glucose levels.
“Many of the health benefits of consuming cherries may be due to their anti-inflammatory potential,” he said. “Some chronic diseases and conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s have been linked to elevated inflammation.”
According to Laugero, cherries are a good source of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, including vitamin C, beta-carotene, flavonoids, and anthocyanins—the pigment that gives the cherries their dark-red color. These compounds may reduce inflammation by reducing oxidative stress, lipid oxidation, and other inflammatory regulating molecules.
Laugero and retired ARS chemist Darshan Kelley have collaborated on other cherry-related research, including the recent publication of review article on the health benefits of cherries.