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The benefits of Cherries

by Roberto Russo

Though the festive season is over for another year, I thought it was worth writing to you about some new findings on the benefits of everyone’s favourite Christmas time fruit – cherries!
Sadly, Australian cherries are only in season for a short period of time every year (around 100 days), but that doesn’t mean you still can’t get full enjoyment out of them at every BBQ you throw over summer!

As I sit here writing this edition of Fast Facts, I am feeling quite full, having just returned from a lovely Christmas party dinner at my colleague’s home with family and friends.  They put on a wonderful feast, served up the freshest prawns, most succulent pork belly, and the sweetest of desserts.  I cleverly chose to wash all these wonderful delights down with a cold, crisp Japanese beer and a whole lot of cheer. It was truly a wonderful evening.

However, at this point I breathe a huge sigh of relief that I don’t YET count myself amongst our poor brethren who suffer from gout, as my choice of words thus far would likely have been very different.  As some may recall I have previously written about the risks of having an attack of gout in relation to the foods we eat, with foods high in purines (such as beer, crustaceans, and red meats) being most often implicated.  As a result, for some, the festive season soon becomes the misery slum as the pain and swelling ensues.

So it is with pleasure that instead today I write about a food that may actually help prevent an attack of gout!  And the great thing is that it is currently in season and absolutely delicious – cherries!

RFF_Jan_16_-_Cherries.jpg

The idea that cherries may help in gout has been has been talked about for some time with the reasons being that cherries:

  1. Reduce uric acid levels
  2. Possess anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties

Consequently, it has been speculated that cherries may reduce the risk of flares and lessen the pain associated with such attacks.  To give proof to these ideas, a group of researchers, including Australian Professor David Hunter, performed a case-crossover study following over 600 people with gout for 12 months. What they found was very interesting.
They reported that:

  1. Fresh cherry intake over a 2-day period was associated with a 35% lower risk of an attack compared to no cherry intake (OR=0.65; 95% CI 0.5-0.85)
  2. Three or more servings of cherries over those 2 days were associated with the greatest reduction of risk.
  3. Consumption of cherry extract (an available commercial concentrate) was associated with a 45% reduction in risk, similar to that achieved with fresh cherries.
  4. When cherry intake is combined with Allopurinol (a medication which lowers uric acid levels) the risk of an attack of gout is reduced by 75% compared to the same period without exposure to either.
  5. The benefit persisted irrespective of gender, ethnicity, BMI, education level, diet, or alcohol use.

As I look forward to the further feasts to come over the summer months, I’ve made sure that together with the gifts I find myself buying, I make a B-line for the fresh fruit aisle and grab myself a few boxes of that velvet delight – CHERRIES!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this RFF and find it of practical value as well as the others sent this year.  I’ve really valued your support over the year and I look forward to continue with the same into 2016.