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Tart Cherries Reduce Central Obesity

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A diet containing tart cherries may help reduce the symptoms of metabolic syndrome and the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan and presented at the annual meeting of the American Dietetic Association.

The study was funded by the Cherry Marketing Institute, which did not have any involvement in its design, implementation or analysis.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of symptoms that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, including high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high fasting blood sugar, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol and central obesity (obesity characterized mainly by belly fat). In the current study, researchers evaluated several symptoms of metabolic syndrome in mice that were fed one of two diets, either with or without added whole tart cherry powder.

The mice were fed either a high-fat, moderate carbohydrate diet, with 45 percent of its calories from fat and 40 percent from carbohydrates, or a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet, with 10 percent of its calories from fat and 75 percent from carbohydrates.

Mice eating added cherry powder as part of either diet reduced their cholesterol levels by approximately 11 percent after 12 weeks. Their body fat was only 54 percent, compared with 63 percent in the non-cherry fed mice, with the majority of the fat reduction around the midsection.

The inflammation markers TNF-alpha and IL-6 were also lowered 40 percent and 31 percent in the cherry-fed mice, respectively. The researchers even found, upon genetic analysis, that the activity of the genes producing these two compounds was reduced in the mice, suggesting that tart cherries may reduce inflammation at a systemic level.

In contrast to the healthy inflammation that is part of the body’s normal response to injury, chronic inflammation has been linked to increased risk for many diseases.

Tart cherries are particularly high in antioxidants, to which the researchers attributed the effects observed in the study. They are different than sweet cherries, which are normally eaten raw.

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