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Basics on sour cherries

July 14, 2012
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles…)

Montmorency and Balaton are the two main types of tart cherries, with Montmorency the most common in the United States.

Eating 20 tart cherries — or, for the sake of your taste buds, drinking the equivalent in juice form — can provide the same pain relief as aspirin or ibuprofen, according to the American Chemical Society.

Sweet cherries and tart cherries have many similarities but also some differences, and these may affect their health benefits, says E. Mitchell Seymour, a research associate at the University of Michigan. Most studies have been done with tart cherries. Montmorency cherries have greater anti-inflammatory content than sweet cherries, or, quite possibly, any other food, says cherry researcher Dr. Kerry Kuehl of the Oregon Health and Science University. "That's why we study them."

Sour cherry supplements would have to be tested side-by-side with the whole fruit, Seymour says, to see if they are as effective. "But it is possible for supplements to provide health benefits if they have similar phytochemical content." Kuehl adds that, in nutrition research in general, supplements have not proved to be as effective as actual fruits and vegetables: "We think food is best."

Under federal regulations, any article "intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease in man" is considered a drug, and since cherries and cherry juice have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as drugs, they cannot be marketed with claims about their health benefits.

—Karen Ravn

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