Cherries sweet for bones, stroke

Two new studies show promising results for the power of tart cherries for bone health and stroke prevention.

Though D.C. got the camera-toting tourists stalking the blossoms, the real cherry festival happened in Boston this week where researchers debuted new studies about the blossoming powers of the fruit. New research suggests that tart cherries could help support bones and reduce stroke-related complications. Scientists presented the studies at the Experimental Biology Annual Conference.

Oklahoma State University researchers found that adding Montmorency tart cherries to the diets of mice reduced age-related bone loss, increased bone density and showed signs of increased bone-building during aging. Osteoporosis and low bone mass threaten the health of nearly 44 million U.S. women and men aged 50 and older, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation. The organization reports that the condition causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually around the world, resulting in an osteoporotic fracture every three seconds.

"While more research is needed to understand the long term bone benefits, tart cherries have the potential to impact health and overall well being, including helping to reduce age-related bone loss," said Oklahoma State University researcher in a release.

New research from the University of Michigan Cardioprotection Research Laboratory suggests that tart cherries not only provide similar cardiovascular benefits as commonly prescribed medicines, but can also reduce the risk of stroke, even when taken with pharmaceutical options. They compared the effects of Montmorency tart cherries to a diabetes medication in rats prone to stroke. Compared to the drug, tart cherries significantly improved blood pressure and improved balance and coordination as the rats aged. The combination of tart cherries and the drug worked. better than the drug by itself, according to the release.

“This research is the first to link to cherries to a reduction in stroke-related symptoms,” University of Michigan cardiologist and lab director Steven Bolling said in a release. “It gives us a good preclinical model to further explore the positive stroke-related benefits of an anthocyanin-rich diet.” Anthocyanins are the antioxidant compounds that give cherries their dark red color.

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