Michael Pearce, Immunotec Consultant

Tart Cherry Anthocyanins Inhibit Tumor Development

Written By: Robin - Apr• 24•10

New studies at Michigan State University (MSU), which were recently published in Cancer Letters, suggest that tart cherries may reduce the risk of colon cancer because of the anthocyanins and cyanidin contained in the cherry. Dr. Mauraleedharan Nair and Dr. Leslie Bourquin along with several graduate students worked on experiments that are part of ongoing research on the components of tart cherries.

“Based on previous observations that tart cherries can inhibit the Cox enzymes, we conducted experiments to test the potential of tart cherry anthocyanins to inhibit intestinal tumor development in mice,” says Dr. Bourquin, an associate professor in food science at MSU. The laboratory mice can very quickly produce the same type of tumors as humans. Mice consuming the tart cherry anthocyanins had significantly fewer and smaller cecal adenomas (colon tumors) than the mice consuming the control diet. The dosage given to the mice does not translate into a specific amount of cherries for humans. Data from animal studies, like this one, may spur human clinical trials. Meanwhile, consumers may have similar effects by eating cherries and drinking cherry juice.

Dr. Nair, a professor in the department of Horticulture and with the National Food Safety and Toxicology Center at MSU, has been researching the biologically active components of tart cherries and their healthful effects for more than 12 years; it’s currently one of the primary areas of his research. “We are looking for a non-toxic compound for the prevention and treatment of cancer. Right now that’s an oxymoron, but we will see something useful eventually,” Dr. Nair says. He believes that a steady supply of tart cherries can improve the overall quality of life. “Everyone is looking for the best quality of life.”

Pain is often a big factor in the quality of life and Dr. Nair thinks that the pain relieving power of tart cherry anthocyanins may have direct applications in cancer. While the research on tart cherry anthocyanins at MSU is ongoing, Dr. Nair also has teamed up with researchers at other universities to study the pain relief of tart cherries (especially as related to cancer). A project at Johns Hopkins University in which Dr. Nair collaborated with Dr. S. Raja studied tart cherry anthocyanins in relation to chronic pain. The research, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, will be published soon.

The current interest in the health benefits of whole foods, including cherries, will continue, according to Dr. Bourquin. “It will eventually be possible to identify the compounds in dietary ingredients that can reduce chronic disease. We will continue to move in that direction.”

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