Lifestyle By NHI Newsroom / May 17, 2016 Share Tweet Pin Share In recent years, inflammation has been getting a lot of attention from researchers. It’s a disease-fighting function of the immune system that often gets out of hand and destroys bones or vital organs. Many authorities now believe inflammation is at the root of many cases of our epidemic chronic illnesses, including heart disease. And while no individual food is a cure-all for inflammation involving the heart and arteries, researchers have identified an intriguing fruit that may offer valuable support and protection for the cardiovascular system. It tastes good, too! Let’s take a look. . . Lab studies indicate that this fruit not only fights general inflammation all over the body, it also specifically appears to battle a type of inflammation that threatens the heart. Oh, and did we mention that scientists have found evidence that this fruit might help you lose weight, too? Lab studies at the University of Michigan show that tart cherries are powerful foes of inflammation that may serve as a weight loss tool. Save Your Heart With Fruits Rich in Antioxidants “Chronic inflammation is a whole body condition that can affect overall health, especially when it comes to the heart,” says researcher Mitch Seymour, Ph.D. “(Our) study offers further promise that foods rich in antioxidants, such as cherries, could potentially reduce inflammation and have the potential to lower disease risk.” In the Michigan research, obese animals ate a typical “Western Diet,” filled with fat, but they were also given whole tart cherry powder as one percent of their diet. The scientists found that the obese animals lost weight (even though they were eating just as many calories as before the study started) and showed reductions in risk factors for heart disease. Their cholesterol dropped and their body fat shrank. Blood tests also showed that inflammatory processes in their body had been toned down. I don’t know about you, but a food that helps you lose weight without cutting calories sounds pretty exciting! Now studies confirm it may work for humans, too. When the researchers tried the same thing on people, they got similar results. Ten overweight and obese adults drank eight ounces of tart cherry juice a day for a month. They experienced less inflammation and their triglycerides (blood fats linked to heart disease) dropped, although in this short preliminary test they did not lose weight. Further experiments are in the works. Pain Fighter The natural substances in tart cherry that fight inflammation also seem to effectively ease muscle pain. A study at the Oregon Health & Science University showed that people who jog long distances can have their training pain reduced by drinking tart cherry juice. In this test, which involved sixty people between the ages of 18 and 50, runners who drank 10.5 ounces of cherry juice a day for a week before performing a long distance race experienced much less pain afterwards than other athletes. On a self-reported pain scale of 0 to 10, the juice drinkers averaged two points lower. The Oregon researchers believe cherries’ pain-fighting powers are connected to the fruit’s anti-inflammatory antioxidants called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are the pigments that endow the cherries with their red color. The Oregon scientists also point out that cherries have significant advantages over more conventional pain-alleviation techniques. “For most runners, post-race treatment consists of RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) and traditional NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs),” says researcher Kerry Kuehl, M.D., a sports medicine physician. “But NSAIDS can have adverse effects – negative effects you may be able to avoid by using a natural, whole food alternative, like cherry juice, to reduce muscle inflammation…” As researchers continue to delve into how certain substances fight inflammation, they are finding that whole foods like tart cherries produce a whole lot of health benefits.