Joint pain and inflammation go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Reducing inflammation helps to reduce the symptoms of arthritic conditions.
Cherries are often suggested as part of an anti-inflammatory diet.
But do they really work? Let's take a look at the evidence.
Cherries and inflammation
Medical researchers have been studying cherries for a while, because of their anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Cherries are a rich source of anthocyanins. These pigments give cherries their dark red color. Anthocyanins are a type of polyphenol, which helps to combat the oxidative stress that contributes to inflammation.
In 2018 a review of the health benefits of cherries found that "consumption of sweet or tart cherries can promote health by preventing or decreasing oxidative stress and inflammation."
Cherries and rheumatoid
A 2003 study found that eating two servings (10 ounces or 280 grams) of sweet cherries after an overnight fast reduced C-reactive protein (CRP) levels.
CRP is the primary blood marker for inflammation. When CRP is reduced, it means that inflammation is lower.
In addition, a 2016 study suggested that Montmorency cherry extract may also decrease tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF). TNF is one of the inflammatory cytokines involved in rheumatoid disease.
Cherries and gout
The 2003 study mentioned above also found that eating cherries reduced uric acid levels.
This is good news for gout patients, as high levels of uric acid exacerbate gout pain.
A 2012 study with 633 participants confirmed the gout benefits. It showed that eating fresh cherries every day lowered the risk of gout attacks. When cherry intake was combined with allopurinol, a medicine used to treat gout, the risk was 75% lower.
Study co-author Hyon K. Choi, MD said: "Cherry intake was associated with a 50 percent lower risk of gout flares over a 48-hour period. We extrapolate that cherries will continue to work long-term."
Cherries and osteoarthritis
Study results for cherries and osteoarthritis have been mixed.
A 2013 study looked at whether tart cherry juice could improve symptoms of osteoarthritis. It found that "Tart cherry juice provided symptom relief for patients with mild to moderate knee OA, but this effect was not significantly greater than placebo."
A 2012 study had previously produced more positive results, concluding that "Tart cherry juice may reduce inflammation...among women with osteoarthritis."
Cherries and osteoporosis
The polyphenols found in cherries also have an osteoprotective effect. This means that they can help to reduce age-related bone loss.
A 2021 study looked at the daily consumption of Montmorency tart cherry juice in women between the ages of 55 and 65.
The study found that "supplementing the diet with lyophilized tart cherry...increased whole-body bone mineral density."
According to these studies, cherries can reduce inflammation, and protect bone health, both of which improve joint pain conditions.
- Nutrients. 2021 Feb; 13(2): 544. U.S. Montmorency Tart Cherry Juice Decreases Bone Resorption in Women Aged 65–80 Years. Tiffany Dodier, Kendall L. Anderson, James Bothwell, Janice Hermann, Edralin A. Lucas, and Brenda J. Smith
- Nutrients. 2018 Mar; 10(3): 368. A Review of the Health Benefits of Cherries. Darshan S. Kelley,1,2,* Yuriko Adkins,1,2 and Kevin D. Laugero1,2
- Antioxidants (Basel). 2016 Dec; 5(4): 33. Tart Cherry Extracts Reduce Inflammatory and Oxidative Stress Signaling in Microglial Cells. Barbara Shukitt-Hale,* Megan E. Kelly, Donna F. Bielinski, and Derek R. Fisher
- Arthritis Rheum. 2012 Dec; 64(12): 4004–4011. Cherry Consumption and the Risk of Recurrent Gout Attacks. Yuqing Zhang,1 Tuhina Neogi,1 Clara Chen,2 Christine Chaisson,2 David Hunter,3 and Hyon K. Choi1
- American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting. May 30, 2012. Sleigh, AE, Kuehl KS, Elliot DL . Efficacy of tart cherry juice to reduce inflammation among patients with osteoarthritis.
- Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2013 Aug;21(8):1035-41. Randomized double-blind crossover study of the efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. H R Schumacher 1, S Pullman-Mooar, S R Gupta, J E Dinnella, R Kim, M P McHugh
- J Nutr 2003 Jun;133(6):1826-9. doi: 10.1093/jn/133.6.1826. Consumption of cherries lowers plasma urate in healthy women. Robert A Jacob 1, Giovanna M Spinozzi, Vicky A Simon, Darshan S Kelley, Ronald L Prior, Betty Hess-Pierce, Adel A Kader