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Tart Cherries: A Remedy for Arthritis?

Tart Cherries: A Remedy for Arthritis?: Main Image
Tart cherries, high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, may reduce pain and inflammation without adverse side effects
People with osteoarthritis often have pain and inflammation, even when using available therapies, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or they may experience side effects from long-term medicine use. This makes study findings published in the Journal of Food Studies of interest, as it found that a blood marker for inflammation known as C-reactive protein was reduced by nearly 50% in women with osteoarthritis who drank tart cherry juice.

Cherries linked to lower inflammation

In this study, 21 women with osteoarthritis were randomly assigned to drink 10.5 fluid ounces of tart cherry juice or a placebo cherry drink twice a day, for 21 days. The tart cherry juice was made from tart cultivar Montmorency cherries, and 10.5 ounces of juice contained the equivalent of as many as 60 cherries. The placebo drink contained 2 grams of unsweetened cherry flavored fruit drink mixed with 1 liter of water, and cherry syrup and lemon juice were added for flavor. Blood tests assessing the level of inflammation in these participants were measured before and after the intervention.

Results showed that women who drank the tart cherry juice had a nearly 50% reduction in blood levels of C-reactive protein, a common indicator of inflammation.

According to the study authors, “Tart cherries, high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, may reduce pain and inflammation without the adverse side effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.”

While these findings show promise, keep in mind that it is still not clear whether the active treatment was truly beneficial or whether the placebo caused an adverse effect and the active treatment was beneficial just in comparison. Further research is needed on the role of cherries in osteoarthritis management.

Natural options needed for best results

Recommended: natural options. Osteoarthritis is a condition that causes inflammation in the joints, and people who suffer from this condition don’t always find complete relief from medications or shots. Integrating them with natural options, including regular exercise, healthy eating, and stress reduction, can significantly help relieve people’s pain. Complementary therapies such as massage, Tai Chi, and acupuncture have also been shown to help relieve pain and improve function in some people with osteoarthritis.

Recommended: nutritional options. One natural option includes turning to various nutrients and natural chemicals in foods that boost the body’s ability to fight inflammation and cell damage. Certain plant foods such as tart cherries and other foods such as fish are high in natural chemicals that may lower inflammation and help prevent cell damage.

Recommended: talk with a doctor. If you suffer from osteoarthritis and still experience pain, talk with a knowledgeable doctor about natural options that may complement your current treatments. Nutritionists knowledgeable about osteoarthritis can also be an important part of your healthcare team in advising about healthy eating for better health. Talk with a doctor before starting supplements to discuss the risks and benefits.

(Journal of Food Studies 2012;1:14-25)

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, websites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.

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