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Cherries are top fruit for joint health


As fruits go, cherries must be one of the most expensive but when they appear in the shops stocks don’t last long.

Despite the cost, cherries are always popular. With their single relatively large stone, cherries belong to the same group of fruits as apricots and plums and come in two main varieties; the edible cherry (Prunus avium) and the rather sour cooking cherry (Prunus cerasus). Cherries are expensive fruits to grow and are very prone to damage and bruising, even by a heavy fall of rain! However, there is a growing demand for them spurred along by their flavour and health benefits.
With research indicating that coloured fruits and berries carry special health benefits due to their high flavonoid content, cherries have become rather sought after. Other dark red-blue berries (blueberries, hawthorn berries, and others) also provide many of the same valuable, anti-inflammatory flavonoid compounds as well but cherries appear to offer something extra especially for those with aching joints. The flavonoids (specifically, anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins) found in cherries act as antioxidants in the body, scavenging for and destroying altered oxygen compounds called free radicals. Many degenerative diseases have been associated with the tissue damage caused by free radicals, including cataracts, Parkinson’s disease, and arteriosclerosis.

Cherries and Gout
Cherries come into their own in cases of gout. This is perhaps the best-known use for the fruit. The benefit looks to be twofold: The flavonoids help to reduce the high uric acid levels in the blood that are responsible for the development of gout itself and at the same time flavonoids block the inflammation-causing substances released in the joint when the uric acid crystals start to accumulate. The typical intake of cherries needed to drop uric acid levels to normal is in the region of 500grams of the fresh fruit per day. Those who have tried the cherry-treatment have also commented that their small joints felt less stiff. Ongoing work has suggested that consuming 20 cherries a day provides up to 25 mg of the active flavonoid compounds (anthocyanins) that can significantly lessen free-radical damage and ease inflammation. Consuming this amount of cherries daily reportedly offers pain relief similar to aspirin and other painkillers by inhibiting inflammation-causing compounds in the body.

Other Health Benefits of Cherries
The key flavonoid compounds responsible for cherries health effects express their natural anti-inflammatory action by preventing both the synthesis and release of inflammation promoting substances such as histamine. In this respect, the effect of flavonoids in the body is similar to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs like aspirin or ibuprofen), antihistamines. This has made flavonoids a favourite among naturopaths for the treatment of allergies, arthritis, and many other conditions in which chronic inflammation is present.

In addition to this, flavonoids also help to strengthen the collagen contained within connective tissue such as ligaments and tendons. This in turn reinforces the web of connective tissue and other key structural elements giving extra support to the skeletal system and taking the strain away from degenerated joints. Even varicose veins may benefit from the anthocyanidins in cherries because it helps strengthen the collagen fibres that form the vein wall. Extracts of cherries and blueberries are used frequently in Europe for treatment of varicose veins along with horse chestnut extract.

Supplement your diet
When cherries are hard to come by or their price makes them simply too expensive to take every day consider using a supplement containing cherry fruit extract. For some this may be the preferred form since per typical serving the supplement extract contains less than half a gram of sugar compared to 20 grams in the fresh juice. A good supplement should contain very pure concentrated extracts, in the region of a 10:1 concentration. This means that 10lb of cherries are used to make 1lb of cherry extract. Supplements of this type deliver dose of around 500mg of Cherry Fruit extract per capsule. I have found that 1000mg of cherry extract taken twice a day can have good results in cases of arthritis. For those just wanting to boost their antioxidant intake 1000mg per day is all that is needed.

Supplements containing Cherry fruit extract have no known adverse reaction and can be taken alongside conventional medications. Whether you take the fresh fruit or opt for the supplement you will be doing your body a favour by including cherries in your diet!

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Marcus Webb

Marcus Webb

Marcus qualified in 1988 from the British College of Osteopathic medicine (formally the British College of Naturopathy and Osteopathy) where he served as a part-time lecturer for four years. He has a special professional interest in the nutritional management of osteoporosis and chronic pain disorders using medical acupuncture. He continues to lecture to special interest groups as well as writing and broadcasting for the public in magazines. Marcus is also a chartered Biologist and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine.



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