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Cherries dip into power drink fad

A company touts findings that the fruit juice helped ease athletes' muscle pain.

June 26, 2006|Hilary E. MacGregor | Times Staff Writer

First chocolate milk, now cherry juice. The list of possible sports recovery drinks -- and their proponents -- is growing longer.

Billing their cherry sports beverage as the "Ultimate Recovery Drink," entrepreneurs seeking a piece of the lucrative power drink market say their formula could help athletes recover from a tough workout -- and they have a small study to support their claim.

The research, appearing online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that consumption of tart cherry juice -- squeezed fresh from Montmorency cherries -- may reduce muscle pain and damage caused by exercise.

An earlier study had demonstrated that eating 45 cherries a day reduced circulating concentrations of inflammatory markers in people's blood. For the study, 16 men were given 12-ounce bottles of a specially formulated beverage containing the juice of 50 to 60 cherries -- or a placebo to drink twice a day for the next eight days.

On the fourth day, the men performed 40 bicep curls on a special piece of equipment with as much weight as they could lift -- an example of what researchers classify as "eccentric" exercise, because the muscles are lengthened and contracted.

Each day after that, researchers evaluated pain, muscle tenderness, relaxed elbow angle and strength. Two weeks later, the same men repeated the process on the other arm, with the other drink.

Researchers found that the men had less reduction in strength and felt less pain when they drank the cherry juice, but there was no difference in their range of motion or their muscle tenderness.

"From a simple perspective, there is a high concentration of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories in cherries that is naturally occurring in those cherries in particular," said Declan Connolly, a professor of physical education at the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Vermont, who conducted the study. "Also, COX-1 and COX-2 inhibitors are quite prevalent in cherries."

The study was funded by Cherrypharm Inc., the company that developed a sports beverage made from Montmorency cherries. A similar study, partially funded by the dairy industry, recently touted the benefits of chocolate milk.

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