Getting Cheery Over Cherries!

Regular readers of SRxA’s Word on Health will be familiar with the many claimed health benefits of fruit. Bananas for HIV prevention, citrus to safeguard us against stroke, berries to prevent Parkinson’s Disease and even exotic cupuaçu for improved reproductive health.

According to many, including TV’s Dr. Oz, the latest superfruit on the block is tart cherries. Extensive research has linked the delicious bright red fruit to a number of benefits, including better sleep, reduced pain from gout and arthritis, reduced post-exercise muscle and joint pain as well as reduced cholesterol, and decreased risk for atherosclerosis and metabolic syndrome.

Dr. Oz, has gone so far as to say that tart cherries are the ultimate antioxidant.

New research from Oregon Health & Science University presented last week at the American College of Sports Medicine Conference confirmed that tart cherries can help to reduce chronic inflammation and can help people with osteoarthritis manage their disease.

In a study of twenty women ages 40 – 70 with inflammatory osteoarthritis, the researchers found that drinking tart cherry juice twice daily for three weeks led to significant reductions in important inflammation markers – especially for those women who had the highest inflammation levels at the start of the study.

With millions of Americans looking for ways to naturally manage pain, it’s promising that tart cherries can help, without the possible side effects often associated with arthritis medications,” said principal study investigator Kerry Kuehl, M.D. “I’m intrigued by the potential for a real food to offer such a powerful anti-inflammatory benefit – especially for active adults.”

Often characterized as “wear and tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. Athletes are often at a greater risk for developing the condition, given their excessive joint use that can cause a breakdown in cartilage and lead to pain and injury.

Anthocyanins – the antioxidant compounds in tart cherries – appear to reduce inflammation to levels comparable to some well-known pain medications.

Previous research on tart cherries and osteoarthritis found that a daily dose of tart cherries helped reduce osteoarthritis pain by more than 20%.

Leslie Bonci, Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center for Sports Medicine, has incorporated tart cherries into the training menu of her professional athletes. She claims they are a natural and easy way to manage pain and also taste great.

Never heard of tart cherries, or concerned that they have such a short season?  The great news is that they are available year-round in dried, frozen, powder and juice forms too.

Game Set and Match Sjögrens

Earlier this year, we brought you news of Serena William’s  health scare after she was diagnosed with pulmonary embolism. Serena has since made a successful comeback to pro tennis, winning 18 straight matches between July and September, including titles at Stanford and Toronto, and becoming a finalist in the US Open. However, by some strange, sad twist of fate, her sister, Venus Williams, was forced to withdraw from the same tournament after being diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome.

Sjögren’s – a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy tissues. It primarily affects glandular tissues – most notably the tear and saliva glands. It can result in dry eyes and a dry mouth. In addition, patients can experience muscle and joint aches and pains, as well as debilitating fatigue.

While a combination of genetic and environmental factors can lead to Sjögren’s, as with many autoimmune diseases, the onset of the condition is often preceded by an infection. It’s understandable how these symptoms might make it difficult, if not impossible, to play tennis at a high level.

I think I’ve had issues with Sjögren’s for a while. It just wasn’t diagnosed,” Williams told ABC News. “The good news for me is now I know what’s happening.”

While Sjogren’s has no cure, there are treatments that make symptoms more manageable. In addition to over the counter (OTC) eye drops and mouth preparations, prescription products are available. They include Evoxac® (cevimeline), Salagen® (pilocarpine hydrochloride) and Numoisyn™ for dry mouth and Restasis® (cyclosporine ophthalmic emulsion) and Lacrisert® (hydroxypropyl cellulose ophthalmic insert) for dry eye. Additionally, anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce joint and muscle inflammation; and certain drugs can help to either suppress or modulate the overactive immune response.

Let’s hope Venus can recover as fast as her sister and that we can look forward to a 9th grand slam finals between the pair.