Division of University Relations
403 Olds Hall
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1047
MEDIA CONTACT: Muralee Nair, (517) 353-2915
Lisa Mulcrone, 517/355-2281


EAST LANSING, Mich. - Popping tart cherries instead of a pill may be an option for those suffering from inflammatory pain, according to Michigan State University researchers.

MSU research, funded by the Michigan Agricultural Experimental station and the Cherry Marketing Association, finds that the same chemicals that give tart cherries their color may relieve pain better than aspirin and ibuprofen. Cherries also may provide antioxidant protection comparable to commercially available supplements like vitamin E and vitamin C. The report will appear in the February edition of Journal of Natural Products, published by the American Chemical Society.

Although studies have not yet been conducted with humans, lead author Muralee G. Nair, a professor of horticulture who is affiliated with the National Food Safety and Toxicology Center, says that results suggest eating about 20 tart cherries could reduce inflammatory pain and benefit the consumer with antioxidant protection. That small amount of cherries contains 12-25 milligrams of active antioxidant compounds, including anthocyanins, according to the authors.

Anthocyanins were found to prevent the oxidative damage caused by oxygen or free radicals almost as well as compounds in antioxidant products on the market. In addition, inflammation-causing enzymes, called cyclooxygenase-1 and-2, were inhibited by the anthocyanins at doses more than ten times lower than aspirin, and without stomach irritation aspirin sometimes causes.

"Daily consumption of cherries has the potential to reduce pain related to inflammation, arthritis and gout," says Nair. "If you have pain from chronic arthritis and aspirin bothers your stomach, eating a bowl of cherries may reduce that pain."

If eating a bowl of cherries isn't always practical, a cherry pill with all the benefits of the fruit may be available in the future.

"Then people can pop a pill instead of eating a whole bowl full of sour cherries," Nair says. "That's pretty hard to do."


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