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Researchers investigate how concentrated juices from a tart cherry benefits human gut health in a recent study published by the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
Containing high levels of anthocyanins, flavonols, and especially polyphenols, there are many tart cherries benefits for human health. These properties can help with cardiovascular health, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and recovery from exercise. Tart cherries are also rich in antioxidants. Recently, researchers have been highly interested in how polyphenol-rich foods like tart cherries affect gut health.
In a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, researchers studied Montmorency tart cherry juice concentrates in both laboratory and human experiments. The laboratory experiments examined whether tart cherry juice altered bacteria. In the human experiments, they studied if tart cherry juice positively affected gut health and the absorption of polyphenol-nutrients.
Participants included five females and five males between the ages of 23-30 years old. Before beginning the study, each participant completed a Food Frequency Questionnaire. Participants did not smoke, nor did they recently ingest antibiotics that would have altered their gut health. Participants were also tested for healthy digestive systems.
Creating petri dishes that resembled the human digestive system, researchers studied how polyphenol-rich foods are metabolically digested in the laboratory. They also tested any alterations in bacteria. Among tart cherries, the polyphenol-rich foods that were used and tested were European cherries, sweet cherries, and apricots.
In the human study, participants were advised to drink 8 oz. of tart cherry juice for five days. At the end of the study period, researchers collected stool samples that provided bacterial DNA.
Results from the laboratory experiments showed that polyphenols typical of tart cherries increased the good bacteria in the petri dishes. In the human study, researchers found that consuming tart cherries positively affected gut health.
Notably, the results showed that participants who consumed a predominantly Western diet – a diet low in fruits, vegetables, and fiber – had lower levels of good gut bacteria. Because of this, these participants were less likely to metabolize and benefit from consuming tart cherries. On the other hand, participants who consumed a predominantly plant-based diet – a diet rich in carbohydrates and fiber – showed a much more positive increase in gut health.
Interestingly, the consumption of apricots also showed a positive increase in gut health. These results show the importance of maintaining a healthy diet in order to properly benefit from polyphenol-rich foods.
This study was carried out on a small number of participants. With this being said, further studies with numerous participants and a longer dietary intervention will help support these results. However, these results have opened doors for further analyses, proposing that tart cherry benefits include gut health.
Written by Laura Laroche, HBASc, Medical Writer
Reference: Mayta-Apaza, Alba C. et al. “Impact of tart cherries polyphenols on the human gut microbiota and phenolic metabolites in vitro and in vivo.” Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. August 8, 2017. 160-172. Online.