A. Judith C. Thalheimer, RD, LDN, managing editor of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, answers: “Anecdotal evidence suggests eating cherries or drinking cherry juice may help with inflammatory conditions like gout and osteoarthritis. [For more on gout, see page 3.] So far, results of research have been mixed.
“Like other dark red fruits and vegetables, cherries (especially tart cherries) are rich in polyphenols, especially proanthocyanins, anthocyanins, and flavonols. These phytochemicals are believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the body. It is therefore possible they could slow the progression of osteoarthritis by decreasing inflammation and reducing cartilage degradation. However, a 2019 review of research to date found there were relatively few studies testing the impact of consuming cherries and cherry juice on osteoarthritis, and the existing studies were not consistent in the way they measured physiological changes and outcomes like pain, quality of life, and physical ability. This leaves us uncertain as to whether phytochemical intake from foods like cherries really helps people with conditions like osteoarthritis, let alone how many cherries to eat or juice to drink to see benefits.
“If you would like to try cherry juice, watch out for added sugars. Look for tart cherry juice (which has more polyphenols as well as less sugar), and don’t overindulge. (Since we do not have data to indicate how much cherry juice might be beneficial, include your consumption in the recommendation to limit 100% fruit juices to eight ounces a day. This helps keep free sugar intake to a minimum.)
“Like other fruits, cherries are a healthy addition to any dietary pattern. Including a wide variety of fruits (and vegetables) of varying colors in your diet insures you will get plenty of nutrients and phytochemicals to support your health.”