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Stroke Health: Reduce Stroke Risk with Cherries - August-29-13

Stroke Health: Reduce Stroke Risk with Cherries

You've heard that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but new research suggests that cherries may be even better for your health. In fact, says the University of Michigan Health System, eating tart cherries may reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Not only do tart cherries provide similar cardiovascular benefits that many prescribed medications provide, they can also reduce the risk of stroke with or without the pharmaceutical options.

According to researchers, a class of drug called PPAR agonists that help regulate fat and glucose in the blood is often prescribed by doctors for the treatment of metabolic syndrome—a cluster of risk factors linked to increased stroke risk. The problem, however, is that other studies have shown that long-term use of these drugs may also increase stroke risk, which has kept many from being approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Data from UM's Cardioprotection Research Laboratory (CRL) shows that eating "U.S.-produced, Montmorency tart cherries" triggers similar affects as the PPAR drugs in many of the body's tissues. The study says that anthocyanins—the compounds that give cherries their bright red hue—could be what is activating the PPAR effect.

"Our previous research has shown that Montmorency tart cherries can have a positive effect on cardiovascular  health and can reduce risk factors like high cholesterol and diabetes," says lead researcher and CRL supervisor E. Mitchell Seymour, Ph.D. "While prescribed drugs improve the outlook for certain risk factors, they've also shown to have undesirable side effects. We wanted to see if a tart cherry-rich diet might provide similar cardiovascular benefits without the risk of heart attack or stroke."

According to the University of Michigan Health System, researchers compared the effects of eating tart cherries and taking the prescription meds in stroke-prone lab rats by measuring the rodents' blood pressure, balance and coordination—all aspects of health affected by a stroke. The scientists tested the rats on physical activities and found that compared to taking a certain PPAR alone, tart cherry intake improved the animals' balance and coordination "significantly" while lowering blood pressure at the same time.

The study shows that 1) the rats who ate only tart cherries recorded the best results, and 2) those who had a combination of cherries and the PPAR drug did better than those who only took the drug.

Dr. Seymour said that while the results are a positive sign for patients currently taking these medications, the results cannot yet be directly applied to humans. The research is the first link between eating cherries and a reduction in stroke-related symptoms, he said, and provide the groundwork for continued investigation.

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