Could tart cherry juice be a substitute for the mythical elixir that Juan Ponce de Leon spent all those years searching for?
As you know, Ponce de Leon was convinced there was a fountain of youth somewhere in the area we now know as Florida. But if he had traveled further north, he might have come across tart Montmorency cherries and discovered the very real benefits of their juice for longevity.
And now, researchers at the University of Delaware found that older adults who drank tart cherry juice every day had better brain function and memory. Plus, in a companion study, middle-aged men and women who drank tart cherry juice had significantly reduced blood pressure and insulin resistance.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease—the No. 1 killer of older adults. And insulin resistance is a key risk factor for type II diabetes—another fatal disease associated with aging.
So let’s take a closer look at how cherries promote healthy aging for both body and brain.
Cherries offer memory and metabolic benefits
The first study involved 34 men and women, ages 65 to 73. They were randomly assigned to consume either 16 ounces of tart cherry juice or 16 ounces of a placebo drink daily for 12 weeks. Participants drank half in the morning, and half in the evening.
All participants were generally healthy. They weren’t taking any medications that influence brain function, and maintained regular diet and activity levels for the duration of the study.
Researchers assessed numerous cognitive function and memory parameters using a series of standard questionnaires and tests, both before and after the study.
The tart cherry group had the following results:
- 5 percent increase in memory
- 4 percent improvement in visual reaction times and sustained attention
- 23 percent reduction in errors on routine tests of visual memory
- 18 percent reduction in errors on spatial working memory tasks
The second study involved 11 men and women with an average age of 49, with metabolic syndrome. The participants were randomly assigned to consume a single serving of tart cherry capsules, tart cherry juice, or a placebo.
Researchers analyzed participants’ blood samples before they consumed the juice or pill, and then up to five hours afterwards.
And here’s what they found in the cherry groups:
- Significantly lower insulin levels within one hour
- Significantly lower systolic blood pressure (the top number) within two hours
Tiny cherry packs a big health punch
Researchers believe the beneficial effects of tart cherries may be related to high concentrations of polyphenols called anthocyanins. These antioxidant and anti-inflammatory plant pigments create the deep ruby red, purple, and blue colors in fruits and vegetables like blueberries, plums, eggplant… and, you guessed it, cherries.
Researchers also noted that the ability of tart cherries to help maintain a healthy blood pressure is key to the circulation of nutrients, energy, and oxygen to the brain, heart, and other organs—helping them function optimally as we age. (I discussed other natural approaches to lowering your blood pressure without dangerous drugs in the October’s issue of Insiders’ Cures as well.)
Meaning that like many botanicals, cherries address the causes of disease and not just the symptoms. So, unlike drugs, they’re good for more than just one medical condition.
The upshot is that tart cherries look like they offer a triple benefit for healthy aging. So don’t cut down that cherry tree… and don’t hold back on adding cherries to your healthy, balanced diet either.
The popular wild cherry varieties grown today ripen in mid- to late-summer.
So while it may be too late this year to find the fresh fruit, frozen and dried tart cherries are available year round—along with tart cherry juice (though the latter is best used in moderation due to its high sugar content).
I recommend eating at least 20 tart cherries daily. But to get enough of the active ingredients in wild cherries, I also recommend taking 2,000 mg of tart cherry extract.
1“Effects of Montmorency tart cherry supplementation on cardio-metabolic markers in metabolic syndrome participants: A pilot study.” Journal of Functional Foods, Volume 57, June 2019, Pages 286-298.
2“Effects of Montmorency tart cherry supplementation on cardio-metabolic markers in metabolic syndrome participants: A pilot study.” Journal of Functional Foods, Volume 57, June 2019, Pages 286-298.