Cardiovascular / Heart Health
Recent studies indicate the powerful antioxidants in cherries, known as anthocyanins, may play a role in reducing inflammation and risk factors for heart disease.
The latest research conducted by the University of Michigan suggests even more reasons to EAT RED and choose cherries for heart-health benefits. Specifically, the study revealed a cherry-enriched diet may help lower body fat, total weight, inflammation and cholesterol – all major risk factors for heart disease. 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.
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. As nearly two out of three Americans are overweight, emerging studies like this are important in examining the role diet may play in disease management and prevention.
“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.”
This new research is the latest linking this red hot “Super Fruit” to protection against heart disease and inflammation. In this new animal study, at-risk obese rats fed a “Western diet” (high in fat, moderate carbohydrates) with tart cherry powder showed a significant decrease in body weight and fat while maintaining lean muscle mass. After twelve weeks, the cherry-fed rats had 14 percent lower body fat compared to the other rats (cherry-fed rats were approximately 54% body fat; rats eating the Western diet alone were 63% body fat). The cherry-enriched diets also reduced total cholesterol levels and two known markers of inflammation- both linked to increased risk for heart disease. The researchers suggested cherry consumption could have an effect on important fat genes and genetic expression.
For more information on cardiovascular/heart health, visit the American Heart Association Web site at www.americanheart.org.