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article imageStudy: Tart cherries may lower cardiovascular, diabetes risks

By Nikki Weingartner     Apr 15, 2009 in Health
A summer favourite often found in pies and on sundae treats now has a new purpose. Researchers have found in follow-up studies that tart cherries have significant health benefits in animal models including reduced belly fat.
That delicious bite-sized round fruit that manages to find its way into so many recipes could also have major health benefits, according to a study out of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Tart cherries, whether in juice form or freeze dried, may be just what the doctor ordered to prevent belly fat and even reduce factors linked to heart disease and diabetes.
Researchers used rat models and fed them whole tart cherry powder in addition to a high-fat diet, common amongst Americans today. Compared to the group that received no cherry powder, the study group had "significantly" lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels and well as a reduced level of molecules that contribute to inflammation that is linked to diabetes and heart disease.
The cherry-fed rats were also less likely to develop belly fat, which has been linked to a myriad of health issues and syndromes, most recently restless leg syndrome. Obese rats in the study were also found to have lower-weight retroperitoneal fat, a specific belly fat which is linked to high cardiovascular risk.
Overall, the cherry study found that:
By the end of the study, the rats that received the cherries had lower body weight, fat mass, total cholesterol, triglyceride, TNF-alpha and IL-6 than the rats that did not receive cherries. In all, TNF-alpha was reduced by 50 percent in the lean rats and 40 percent in the obese rats and IL-6 was lowered by 31 percent in the obese rats and 38 percent in the lean rats.
Inflammation, body fat, weight gain and blood cholesterol all lower in rats fed cherries on top of high-fat, Western-style diet
The collaborative team of researchers at the University of Michigan's Cardioprotection Research Lab were furthering previous studies that had shown reduction in total cholesterol, blood sugar, fat storage in the liver and oxidative stress on lean rats that were predisposed to certain health problems.
Although human studies have not yet been put into practice, a clinical team from the University of Michigan Integrative Medicine plans on implementing a pilot study later this spring using whole tart cherries in human models.
Cherries in a pot
Cherries in a pot
Photo by bgblogging
So if you are looking to get ahead of the game, tart cherries are showing major benefits in animal models when it comes to your heart, diabetes and weight. At 1.5 cups of the round fruit a day, you should be on your way to a better you. If nothing more, you could sleep better and possibly help clean out that which is "backed up." Unless there is an allergy, it seems like there isn't much about these tiny balls that will land you in the pits.
The cherries used in the study were Michigan's own Montmorency tart cherries, as Michigan is the nation's largest producer of tarts.
More about Cherries, Belly fat, Sweets
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