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FDA lowers the boom on pain-relieving fruit

By Lee Euler / April 13, 2011

The Red Fruit Cancer-Fighter

From cherry pie to cherry-flavored cough syrup, the cherry is one of America’s most popular fruits. But beyond its sweet — and sometimes sour — flavor, what do cherries have to offer?

If you happened to read any cherry grower’s website around 2004, you would have learned that “cherries may bring pain relief to those who suffer from arthritis or gout, prevent certain cancers, prevent heart attacks, fight and prevent diseases, and prevent cataracts.”

Sounds like quite a miracle fruit. Right? A number of alternative health newsletters agreed and picked up the story: Cherries are a valuable anti-inflammatory, at the very least.

The FDA doesn’t think so.

Continued below…

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In 2005, the FDA placed 29 cherry growers on their “naughty list” for claiming the healing powers of the fruit. According to the Feds, these statements about health were on par with marketing a drug. It threatened to take cherries off the market and deem them as “unapproved drugs” unless cherry growers removed all health claims.

The ironic thing is, cherries have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. The cherry is one of the world’s oldest cultivated fruits and has long been used as a remedy for aches and pains.

Cherries boast four powerful anticancer properties

I wouldn’t believe cherries had anticancer agents solely based on the marketing claims of their growers. But it’s easy to believe cherries fend off cancer when you consider all the good-for-you contents of the pitted fruit.

Just look at the scientific makeup of the cherry. According to the National Cherry Growers and Industries Foundation, cherries contain carotenoids, melatonin, quercetin, and anthocyanins. These are components that battle cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, inflammation, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Here’s how each element stacks up to boost your health and resist cancer:

1. Carotenoids: Carotenoids are a type of phytonutrient that’s abundant in cherries. Beta carotene is in this category. The body converts it into vitamin A and it’s been shown to protect against macular degeneration, heart disease, and cancer.

Research on the relationship between carotenoids and cancer is slim, yet promising. The nutrient has been shown to have anti-carcinogenic activity, which factors into the chemoprevention of cancer. Chemoprevention is the use of natural chemical agents to reverse the carcinogenic progression of cancer.

2. Melatonin: Your body produces the hormone melatonin to help you get a deep, productive night’s sleep. It’s a regulator of the immune system and works as an antioxidant. The body’s pineal gland is the primary source of melatonin, but cherries are also a rich source of the hormone.

Melatonin functions against cancer by regulating and relieving stress to the immune system. It also inhibits the growth of new tumor cells.

A 2003 research study revealed that higher melatonin levels in women slowed the progression of breast cancer by 70% (Journal of the National Cancer Institute). And in general, patients with cancer have lower than average levels of melatonin — so the more they get as they battle cancer, the better.

3. Quercetin: Quercetin is a potent flavonoid found in cherries, apples, potatoes, and garlic, among other plant-based foods. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and can kill cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed.

A study published in the British Journal of Cancer found that quercetin rapidly killed off abnormal cells, specifically in prostate and skin cancers. There’s evidence the flavonoid helps prevent cataracts, bronchitis, allergies, and heart disease.

4, Anthocyanins: In 1999, scientists at Michigan State University discovered that the group of compounds that create the dark red color of cherries were anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are an incredible source of antioxidants and are believed to prevent inflammatory responses, degenerative diseases, cardiovascular disorders, and cancer.

The antioxidant activity, especially found in dark, sour cherries, is considered more powerful than Vitamin E, a benchmark for antioxidant strength. It’s also a pain reliever that works similarly to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen.

Twenty cherries contain about 25 milligrams of anthocyanins. This is enough to match the pain relief of Advil. The alternative pain reliever works by shutting down enzymes, COX-1 and COX-2.

Anthocyanins can also tackle cancer. Test tube and lab animal studies have confirmed the compound’s ability to inhibit cancer cell growth. One such study focused on colon cancer in rats at the National Institutes of Health.

Surprisingly, no research for anthocyanins, quercetin, and carotenoids has been conducted on humans. Every study published has been conducted in lab rats or in vitro.

Evidence that cherries can pack a real punch against cancer is favorable, to say the least. But I don’t think we’ve even begun to identify the possible benefits.

I’d like to order 20 research studies, with a cherry on top

If you consider all the nutrients in cherries, they certainly seem to justify the health claims the cherry growers made back in 2004. But with a lack of research conducted on humans, there’s no clear way to convince the FDA of the anticancer benefits.

The only research I could find to justify the lack of human testing was that anthocyanin appears to leave the body quickly when consumed. To me, that’s no justification for the void in research, but it does pose a problem for confirming the compound is in the body long enough to do its work.

The NIH has made small strides in the study of cherries as an anticancer agent. In 2000, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine awarded a grant to Johns Hopkins University to study the use of sour cherries for pain and cancer treatments.

When the study was complete, scientists reported that tart cherries relieve pain and inflammation in arthritis and diabetes, and offer protection against cancer. The study was based on anthocyanins, but again was only conducted on animals.

A related study on cherries was done on humans, but solely to study muscle pain. The British Journal of Sports Medicine reported a controlled study on male college students. Those who drank cherry juice as part of their daily diet had significantly less muscle pain and strength loss than those who drank a placebo beverage.

This finding and the pain studies cited above indicate that cherries are actually a viable replacement for pain drugs (NSAIDs) that are known to kill at least 16,000 people a year.

No adverse effects have been found from consuming cherries. The only thing to be aware of is the higher levels of sorbitol, which potentially may cause trouble for those with irritable bowel syndrome. But if you consume cherries in moderation, this shouldn’t be a problem.

The most recent research information I was able to track down is a January 2011 statement from NIH. It reads, “Well-designed cherry feeding studies are needed to further substantiate any health benefits in humans.”

Yes, that’s exactly what’s needed. I’m waiting. . .

Why is the FDA such a stick in the mud?

Since the cherry feud of 2005, the FDA hasn’t found new faults with cherry growers and their health claims. But they haven’t shown any effort to take the growers off their online “black list” either. Nor have they shown any intention of allowing growers to quote the results from promising research studies.

Pomegranates came in for similar FDA persecution (see issue #28 in our archive at www.cancerdefeatednewsletter.com). Pomegranate growers aren’t allowed to put studies about the fruit’s benefit on their website. It seems the FDA views fruit as a threat to our well-being. It’s extraordinary that a commercial fruit-grower can’t publish a study from a scientific journal.

A cherry grower in Michigan commented that the only way the FDA would consider letting them talk about possible health benefits is if a grower registered cherries as a drug. Even then, it would take millions of dollars in research to actually land FDA approval. Not to mention, who wants to shop for cherries at the drug store instead of the produce aisle?

This goes back to the fact that we need more research. It’s an outrage that the government treats natural fruits — fruits that are clearly beneficial to good health — as an enemy.

In a perfect world, the FDA would contribute research grants to discover the health benefits of cherries and other fruits and vegetables. And they’d cut the red tape around claiming fruits as a “drug category.”

In the meantime, I’ll draw my own conclusions. With so many components found to inhibit or fight cancer cells, it makes sense the red fruit has real potential as a cancer fighter.

Best regards,

Lee Euler,
Publisher

References:
1 Wong, Cathy. “What are Tart Cherries?,” June 2006.
http://altmedicine.about.com/od/completeazindex/a/tart_cherry.htm.
2 “Cherries for Cancer?” May 2006.
http://curezone.com/blogs/fm.asp?i=982194.
3 Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations. Federal Drug Administration, Oct. 2005.
http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/2005/ucm075616.htm.
4 “Cherries Prevention for Cancer.”
http://fasting.ws/cancer/cherries-prevention-cancer.
5 “Increasing Melatonin Levels To Heal From Cancer.”
http://www.alternative-cancer-care.com/Melatonin_Cancer.html.
6 “Cancer Prevention: Anthocyanin,” Cancer Quest.
http://www.cancerquest.org/cancer-prevention-anthocyanin.
7 Lee YK, Lee WS, Kim GS, Park OJ., Anthocyanins are novel AMPK?1 stimulators that suppress tumor growth by inhibiting mTOR phosphorylation. Dec. 2010.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21042741.
8 McCune LM, Kubota C, Stendell-Hollis NR, Thomson CA., Cherries and health: a review. Jan 2011.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21229414.
9 “A Bowl of Cherries.” The Moss Reports, Dec. 2001.
http://www.cancerdecisions.com/120301.html.
10 Gumpert, David. “A Federal Blight for Cherry Farmers,” June 2006.
http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/jun2006/sb20060626_541703.htm.
About the author

Lee Euler

Hi I'm Lee Euler, I’ve spent over a decade investigating every possible way a person can beat cancer. In fact, our commitment to defeating cancer has made us the world’s #1 publisher of information about Alternative Cancer Treatments -- with over 20 books and 700 newsletters on the subject. If you haven't heard about all your cancer options, or if you want to make sure you don’t miss even one answer to this terrible disease, then join our newsletter. When you do, I'll keep you informed each week about the hundreds of alternative cancer treatments that people are using to cure cancer all over the world.

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