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Picture of cherriesThe Cancer Research

Cherries contain numerous phytochemicals and nutrients, many of which are well studied in the laboratory. They also contain dietary fiber, which is linked to lower risk of colorectal cancer. Consuming high amounts of dietary fiber may also help people control their weight by giving a feeling of fullness. That is important to cancer risk because excess body fat increases the risk of seven cancers.

What Current Evidence Shows: AICR/WCRF expert report and its Continuous Updates (CUP)

Cherries are fruits that contain dietary fiber and vitamin C. After a systematic review of the global scientific literature, AICR/WCRF weighed the strength of the evidence linking these factors to lower risk for several cancers.
Source: Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective and the 2011 Continuous Update Project (CUP): Colorectal Cancer.
Diets high in: CONVINCINGLY lower risk of the following cancers:
Foods containing dietary fiber Colorectum
Diets high in: PROBABLY lower risk of the following cancers:
Fruits Mouth, Pharynx, Larynx
Esophagus
Lung
Stomach
Foods containing vitamin C Esophagus

”Cherries are a good example of how fruits and vegetables can give you important amounts of fiber, nutrients and phytochemicals without needing to have 'superstar' levels.”
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN.

Open Areas of Investigation: Laboratory Research

Laboratory research is extensive on the group of compounds in cherries called anthocyanins. In laboratory studies, anthocyanins inhibit the growth of cancer cells and stimulate their self-destruction, without affecting healthy cells. These compounds also show anti-inflammatory and strong antioxidant effects. Lab studies on dietary fiber suggest it reduces cells’ exposure to cancer-causing substances. Healthful gut bacteria use dietary fiber to produce short-chain fatty acids that protect colon cells.

In comparison, there are relatively few studies on the cancer effects of the phytochemical perillyl alcohol. Limited studies suggest that perillyl alcohol acts as an antioxidant and stimulates self-destruction of abnormal cells. It also may inhibit cancer growth in animals, at least in part by inhibiting the process of angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels that tumors rely on to spread.

Open Areas of Investigation: Human Studies

Most human studies look at overall fruit consumption. Comparing people who develop cancer with those who do not, studies show lower risk of several cancers in those who eat more fruits compared to those who eat relatively few. Beyond the impact of overall fruit consumption in large population studies, more research is needed to understand the impact of cherry consumption in particular on cancer risk.

Clinical Trials: A few short-term human trials have shown that sweet cherries and tart cherry juice improve antioxidant effects and reduce signs of inflammation. These studies used two to three servings daily of cherries or cherry juice.

In some short-term intervention trials, scientists have seen promise in cherries' perillyl alcohol. Researchers have tested this isolated compound among people at high risk for or with some types of cancer. But researchers have much to learn about dose, form and effective methods of delivery, as well as how to identify who might benefit most. Researchers cannot yet translate the clinical trial findings on perillyl alcohol to how consuming cherries may affect cancer development. When a compound such as perillyl alcohol is consumed in foods, the amount and way it is absorbed is likely different than when consumed in isolation.

Published on March 24, 2014

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