Cherry Against Cancer

Cherry is an edible fruit found in many areas of the world. It is fleshy (drupe), spherical in shape, usually red color more or less dark, more rarely yellow. This small fruit has approximately 50 calories per 100 grams, and has plenty of nutrients and health benefits…

Cherry and Cancer

Sweet cherries are eaten fresh, especially in desserts, salads or sauces. The tart cherry, mostly provided canned, frozen or dried, is five times richer in antioxidants; it would help to prevent cancer and many other diseases. But what studies really say about tart cherry and cancer?

Two studies have shown that a diet enriched in tart cherries or taking of anthocyanins extracted from fruit supplements reduced the occurrence of bowel tumors in mice. In addition, regular intake of anthocyanins has reduced the required dosage of sulindac, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to destroy cancer cells, but high dosage has been associated with an increased risk of bleeding and gastrointestinal ulcers.

Anthocyanin extracts also slow down the growth of human colon cancer cells in vitro. These results indicate that some phenolic compounds in tart cherries may reduce the risk of colon cancer, but clinical studies are needed to confirm these results. The extract of sweet cherry in vitro also reduces the proliferation of cancerous cells in colon cancer cells and breast cancer, in proportion to the amount used. In short, cherry prevents cancer cells from reproducing.

Although cherry kills cancer cells, it is not the only reason to eat it regularly. The tiny fruit is rich in many nutritive elements which are good for your body.

Vitamins and Minerals 

Fresh cherries are rich in vitamin C, vitamin B3, vitamin C, and are slightly laxative. They contain sugars (15 g per 100 g, including levulose), and pectin, which is useful for jams. They also contain copper, iron, manganese, as well as potassium which gives it diuretic properties, and fibers which is ideal to stimulate the intestinal functions. Their caloric content is reasonable to 65-68 kcal per 100 g.


Research on anthocyanins of tart cherry shows antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity in vitro studies. They are the main phenolic compounds of this fruit. As many of these compounds present in plants, anthocyanins have the ability to neutralize free radicals from the body and thereby prevent the onset of several diseases: cancer, cardiovascular disease, and various chronic medical conditions. It is mainly due to these powerful compounds that cherries have the effects of painkiller and muscle recovery. Researchers have also found that their administration to rats decreased their inflammation and sensitivity to pain, in addition to reducing edema.

Furthermore, anthocyanins would protect nerve cells from damage caused by oxidative stress.

Sweet and tart cherries are both rich in anthocyanins. However, golden yellow sweet cherries (Rainier cherries), does not contain anthocyanins when grown in tunnels shelter from the sun. However, when exposed to light, it takes a slight red coloration and then contains some anthocyanins. In short, the more colorful are the cherries, the more they contain elements beneficial to health.


Tart cherries have an average concentration of antioxidants about 5 times higher than sweet cherries. They contain the most antioxidants after blueberries, blackcurrant (also called cassis), blackberry and strawberry. Regardless you drink the fresh juice or take the extract you will benefits from these antioxidants.

Phenylpropanoids and other Phenolics  

Sweet cherries contain a relatively high amount of phenols, sometimes called phenolics. Some of these chemical compounds, Epigallocatechin-3 gallate and others, shown in several studies to be cancer chemopreventive, thus help reducing the risk of developing cancer. According to a review in the “British Journal of Nutrition,” there is evidence suggesting some Phenylpropanoids may have anticancer effects.


Two varieties of tart cherries, Montmorency and Balaton, are rich in melatonin, a compound known for its antioxidant potentiality. Consumption of plants containing sufficient melatonin could well provide protection against damage caused by free radicals. Melatonin is a sleep regulator; it could also help fight insomnia. According to Dr. Mercola, “Melatonin has roles in cancer prevention, strengthening your immune system, and may even slow down cellular aging; in fact, it has been the subject of preclinical research on over 100 different disease applications. It’s your body’s “Superhero of the Night,” and light is his number one nemesis.

Other Curative Effects 

The stems or stalks of cherries are used in particular against inflammation of the urinary tract, cystitis, gout and dropsy. Cherries are supposed to regulate urinary tract and intestines. The fruit is also used against other painful inflammation and muscle recovery.

Painful Inflammation and Muscle Recovery – Two clinical studies were conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of tart cherry juice to reduce pain and promote muscle recovery during intense exercise, running long distance, 26 km and 42 km. In the first study, the runners consumed 700 ml of tart cherry juice (variety Montmorency) per day for 7 days before the race and the day of the race. Increasing the intensity of muscle pain after the race was significantly lower in participants who consumed the cherry juice rather than a placebo.

In the other study, marathon runners drank 500 ml of tart cherry juice (Montmorency variety) per day, five days before the marathon, the same day, and two days after. The level of markers of inflammation and oxidative stress was significantly lower in the cherry juice group than in the placebo group. In addition, participants who consumed the cherry juice had a faster recovery of their muscular strength.

Cardiovascular Diseases – A study published in 2006 showed that, in healthy individuals, consumption of 280 g of sweet cherries per day for 28 days had beneficial effects on various anti-inflammatory markers. These markers are indicators of cardiovascular risk. Cherry consumption, however, has no effect on the lipid (cholesterol and triglycerides) profile of subjects.

An in vitro study has also shown that sweet cherries (tart cherry was not part of the evaluated fruit) inhibit the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) by 70% to 99%. Oxidation of LDL cholesterol is a cardiovascular risk factor.

Insomnia -Two small studies have reported a slight improvement in sleep with consumption of cherries. In 2010, a study was done with 15 people aged 65 and older that suffer with insomnia. During two periods of 14 days, they consumed daily either tart cherry juice or a placebo. After the sessions “cherry juice”, the number of minutes awake after falling asleep has been improved, but not the time taken to fall asleep or the total sleep time.

The other study involved 12 people age 35 to 85 years. For 3 consecutive days, they consumed 400 g of cherries having large concentrations of melatonin and serotonin. An increase in total sleep time and a reduction in the number of waking periods and nocturnal restlessness were found.


Although rare, cherry may cause oral allergy syndrome. Consumption of this fruit may trigger among people allergic to birch pollen or grass, causing certain light symptoms such as itching and sneezing, as well as asthma, generalized hives (urticaria), or anaphylaxis. As these allergenic proteins are usually destroyed when cooked, it is recommended for hypersensitive individuals to consume cooked cherries.


  1. Kang SY, Seeram NP, et alTart cherry anthocyanins inhibit tumor development in Apc(Min) mice and reduce proliferation of human colon cancer cellsCancer Lett. 2003;194:13-19.
  2., Melatonin Research Database
  3. Dr. Mercola. Exposing Yourself to Light at Night Shuts Down Your Melatonin and Raises Your Cancer Risk
  4. Tall JM, Seeram NP,et alTart cherry anthocyanins suppress inflammation-induced pain behavior in ratBehav Brain Res. 2004;153:181-188.
  5. Heinonen IM, Meyer AS, Frankel AN.Antioxidant activity of berry phenolics on human low-density lipoprotein and liposome oxidation. J Agric Food Chem. 1998;46:4107-4112.
  6. Dietary anthocyanin-rich tart cherry extract inhibits intestinal tumorigenesis in APC(Min) mice fed suboptimal levels of sulindac. Bobe G, Wang B, Seeram NP, et alJ Agric Food Chem. 2006 Dec 13;54(25):9322-8.
  7. Kuehl KS, Perrier ET,et alEfficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized controlled trialJ Int Soc Sports Nutr 2010 May 7;7:17.
  8. Howatson G, McHugh MP, et alInfluence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon runningScand.J.Med.Sci.Sports 2009 Oct 21.
  9. Consumption of Bing sweet cherries lowers circulating concentrations of inflammation markers in healthy men and women. Kelley DS, Rasooly R,et alJ Nutr. 2006 Apr;136(4):981-6.
  10. Effects of a tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study. Pigeon WR, Carr M,et al. J Med Food. 2010 Jun;13(3):579-83.
  11. Jerte Valley Cherry-Enriched Diets Improve Nocturnal Rest and Increase 6-Sulfatoxymelatonin and Total Antioxidant Capacity in the Urine of Middle-Aged and Elderly Humans. Garrido M, Paredes SD,et alJ Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2010 Jun 13.
  12. Kim DO, Heo HJ,et alSweet and sour cherry phenolics and their protective effects on neuronal cellsJ Agric Food Chem2005;53:9921-7
  13. Anthocyanin content, lipid peroxidation and cyclooxygenase enzyme inhibitory activities of sweet and sour cherries. Mulabagal V, Lang GA,et alJ Agric Food Chem. 2009 Feb 25;57(4):1239-46.

Leave a Reply