It’s no secret that medication can have dramatic impacts on a person and we tend to expect it to. For example, we take painkillers to combat a headache or medication to lower blood pressure. Yet, far too often, we underestimate the impacts of the food we eat and the compounds within it.
In fact, if we make the right decisions about food, we have the potential to dramatically improve our health. Now, there are lots of foods out there that contribute to health but today the focus is specifically on some of the key tart cherry juice health benefits.
1. Tart Cherry Juice Fights Inflammation
Of all the tart cherry juice health benefits out there, one of the most well-known is the potential to fight inflammation. The term inflammation has become a bit of a buzz word recently but the process itself is actually a key component of how our body fights off infection.
However, our bodies often produce an inflammatory response when this isn’t necessary or the inflammatory response may be too strong (1). In many cases, these inflammatory responses can be painful, as they can create swollen and red areas. At the same time, inflammation has been linked to the development of some diseases and even to weight gain (2), especially in cases where the body is producing inflammation when it shouldn’t (3).
There is significant research supporting the potential of tart cherry juice to fight inflammation.
Much of this is connected to the presence of the natural compounds called anthocyanins, which are present in tart cherries (4). Research also suggests that the action of tart cherries focuses on COX-1 and COX-2. These are two enzymes specifically connected to inflammation (5,6) and fighting these helps to reduce levels of inflammation.
At the same time, there have been specific studies showing that tart cherry juice helped to reduce indicators of inflammation. For example, one study found this with inflammation following simulated road cycling (7), while another study found a similar outcome in relation to osteoarthritis (8). The latter example is especially relevant, as people with osteoarthritis can suffer considerable pain that is associated with inflammation.
Because inflammation has been connected to disease development and to pain, there is also a chance that tart cherries could help to lengthen life in this way. If nothing else, reducing inflammation does have the potential to reduce pain and improve quality of life for some people.
2. A Powerful Antioxidant
Another key impact of tart cherry juice is its ability to act as an antioxidant.
Now, this isn’t a health outcome as such, but antioxidants have been linked to a number of health benefits. In particular, there is a lot of discussion about the potential of antioxidants to prevent disease development and even lengthen life (12).
As a general rule, fruits often act as good sources of natural antioxidants and many of the key compounds they contain have antioxidant functions. In the case of tart cherries, research has also indicated that tart cherry juice can lower oxidative stress (13) and oxidative damage (14).
It is worth noting that antioxidants are a somewhat controversial topic.
They have become incredibly popular in recent years due to media hype and people’s desire to live longer. However, scientists have mixed perspectives about the benefits that antioxidants truly offer.
One key issue is that oxidation itself is a natural biological process, one that is needed for our body to function properly. As such, there is the potential for antioxidants to cause harm, especially if people consume too many of them (17).
More than anything, this controversy seems to suggest that antioxidant supplements are a waste of time and may even be dangerous. However, getting natural antioxidants through sources like tart cherry juice can be a good way to promote health without getting excessive amounts of antioxidants (18).
3. Improves Sleep Quality
A surprising benefit of tart cherry juice is the potential to improve sleep. For example, some research has found that tart cherry juice was able to increase sleep time for adults with insomnia (19,20).
The ability of tart cherry juice to improve sleep quality seems to be relevant for all age groups but it is particularly strong in the elderly (21).
These outcomes may be linked to the way that tart cherry juice can increase melatonin levels and higher melatonin levels are linked to improved sleep, especially for people with sleeping disorders (22,23). Likewise, the serotonin and tryptophan in tart cherries may also be a reason for the effects of tart cherry juice on sleep (24).
Now, in terms of health, sleep quality is certainly important and there is little doubt that getting enough sleep and getting good quality sleep can play a key role in health. If tart cherry juice is what it takes to help you sleep well, then it’s easy to see why this juice is so appealing.
4. Promotes Heart Health
Heart disease is a major issue in modern society, partly because of our food choices and our lifestyles. As such, one of the most powerful things that we can do for our health is to find ways to reduce our risk of heart problems.
Tart cherry juice is one potential approach.
Once more, the benefits of tart cherries in this area are connected to the presence of anthocyanins (25).
Likewise, there is some evidence that tart cherry juice can help decrease blood pressure (29).
That outcome is important; as high blood pressure is considered a risk factor for heart disease.
5. Plays a Role in Muscle Recovery
Another interesting area in relation to tart cherry juice health benefits is the role of tart cherries in helping with muscle recovery.
This outcome is connected to the way that exercise acts to create micro tears within muscles – which is particularly prominent with intense exercise and for people who haven’t exercised for some time. Those tears result in an inflammatory response, which leads to pain in your muscles, along with fatigue and stiffness.
At the same time, the tears also mean that people lose some of their strength in those muscles temporarily. Not only is this process painful but it can be frustrating for people trying to train and people who want to exercise regularly.
One study illustrated this, showing that students experienced a lower amount of strength loss when taking tart cherry juice versus taking a placebo (32). Likewise, another study showed that tart cherry juice supplementation resulted in lower pain after a 26 km (around 16 miles) run (33).
6. May Help Fight Cancer
Cancer research comes with a lot of challenges, especially as there are so many different types of cancer out there and, by necessity, most studies into cancer risk are observational in nature or conducted in animals.
One study found that these compounds can play a role in inhibiting tumor development in mice and also reduce human colon cancer cell line growth (36), suggesting that similar effects could potentially occur in humans.
Another study found that tart cherry juice increases the rate of cell death for breast cancer. However, the juice did not affect the rate of cell multiplication (37).
Without a doubt, much more research is needed in this area before we have a reliable idea of whether tart cherry juice can have a significant impact on cancer risk.
Nevertheless, it is clear that there are significant tart cherry juice health benefits and these make tart cherry juice a good choice for health overall.
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