Another reliable sign of inflammation: the unwanted increase in nitric
oxide. This biochemical is thought to play a role in damaging arthritic
joints. The third marker, tumor necrosis factor alpha, is secreted in
greater quantities when the body is fighting tumors that may induce
inflammation. As is true for C-reactive protein, a healthy body that
isn't fighting an inflammation has very little of this marker.
At the 3-hour monitoring interval, C-reactive protein and nitric oxide
were somewhat lower than at the start of the study. "Even though
these levels were not significantly lower, the trend was in the right
direction and so is of interest," notes Kelley.
Unexpectedly, the scientists found no change in levels of tumor necrosis
factor alpha. That's in contrast to a previous study, conducted elsewhere,
in which natural compounds in fruits and vegetables were found to decrease
levels of this marker. But the trends toward decreases in the other
two markers do agree with results of other scientists' earlier, in vitro
studies of cherry extracts.
Jacob and Kelley collaborated with chemists Giovanna M. Spinozzi and
Vicky A. Simon of the nutrition center; chemist Ronald L. Prior, who
is with ARS at Little Rock, Arkansas; and research associate Betty Hess-Pierce
and professor Adel A. Kader, of the University of California, Davis.
A Month of Fresh Cherries
The follow-up study, conducted in 2003, involved more people, more
cherries, and a greater array of inflammatory-response markers. Eighteen
women and two menaged 22 to 40participated in the 64-day
Many of the new volunteers began the study with elevated C-reactive
protein levels. "That made it easier to detect any decline in C-reactive
protein levels as the study progressed," says Kelley. "We're
particularly interested in this protein because a recent major study
indicated that it's more reliable than cholesterol as a predictor of
"This group ate the same daily amount of fresh Bing cherries as
our earlier volunteers. But we asked them to eat the cherries throughout
the day instead of just at breakfast." The volunteers did that
for 28 consecutive days. The researchers are now analyzing blood samples.
The grower-sponsored California Cherry Advisory Board helped fund the
research. Final results should be available later this year. Then we'll
know more about the health benefits of this sweet treat.By Marcia
Wood, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.
This research is part of Human Nutrition, an ARS National Program
(#107) described on the World Wide Web at www.nps.ars.usda.gov.
Darshan S. Kelley is
with the USDA-ARS Western Human
Nutrition Research Center, One Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616; phone
"Fresh Cherries May Help Arthritis Sufferers" was
published in the May
2004 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.