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Tart cherry juice is all over social media these days, especially on TikTok. Indeed, the hashtag #TartCherryJuice has accumulated more than 30 million views on TikTok. Insomniacs of all ages and backgrounds rave about the numbing effects of tart cherry juice, saying it provides the benefit of sleeping like a baby without the wake-up drowsiness that accompanies other sleeping pills like sedating antihistamines and melatonin. . But does tart cherry juice really help you fall asleep easily and sleep more soundly?
Anecdotal evidence lends a helping hand. Some clinical studies suggest that tart cherries are helpful in improving sleep. Also, many doctors and dietitians believe the juice may be useful as a natural sleep aid when used occasionally.
“Cherries are a rich source of polyphenols and vitamin C. As a result, they decrease inflammation and promote sleep,” says nutritional psychiatrist Uma Naidoo, MD, director of nutritional and lifestyle psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. In his book, It’s your brain on the foodDr. Naidoo cites clinical research from 2018 where a tart cherry juice preparation reduced insomnia in study participants.
This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, which was published in the American Journal of Therapeutics, tested two small groups of insomniacs. One group drank a tart cherry juice drink in the morning and two hours before bed for 14 days while a similar group drank a cherry-flavored placebo drink at the same times. After 14 days and a washout period, the groups switched to cherry juice or the placebo they didn’t have during the first part of the experiment and repeated the two-week trial. Researchers tested all participants’ blood before and after each 14-day phase and studied their sleep using polysomnography, which records brain waves, eye and leg movements, oxygen levels in blood, heart rate and respiration. The results showed that cherry juice drinkers increased their sleep time by an average of 84 minutes and improved their sleep efficiency.
“Although this was a small study, it provided the first human evidence for cherry juice as a sleep aid,” according to Dr. Naidoo.
A lot of noise about melatonin
Researchers from the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, the Food and Science Division, and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center also found that cherry juice drinkers’ blood test showed increased levels of the amino acid tryptophan. Why is this important? Because tryptophan is converted into melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate our sleep-wake cycles, and serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in mood and sleep. More tryptophan means more melatonin and serotonin and, theoretically, better sleep.
Cherry juice is thought to increase the availability of tryptophan by inhibiting an enzyme called IDO (indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase), which is stimulated by inflammation. IDO degrades tryptophan, so less IDO is thought to increase both serotonin and tryptophan and, therefore, more melatonin.
Other research published in the European Journal of Nutrition in 2012 showed similar results. In this study, 20 people received either a placebo drink or about an ounce of concentrated Montmorency tart cherry juice in the evening for seven days. Urine tests showed “significantly elevated” melatonin in the cherry juice group but not in the placebo group. Additionally, researchers found that cherry juice supplementation significantly increased time spent in bed, total sleep time, and sleep efficiency.
An older study published in the Medicinal Food Journal in 2010, involving elderly people with insomnia, found that a mixture of tart cherry juice taken nightly for two weeks resulted in “significant reductions in the severity of insomnia”, compared to participants who took a cherry-flavored placebo drink.
“I’ve recommended tart cherry juice to my clients as a sleep aid because it contains melatonin and has been shown to help people fall asleep faster and improve sleep duration,” says one. Registered Dietitian and member of the Eatthis.com medical review board. Amy Shapiro, MS, RDfounder of Real Nutrition, NYC.
But there are other potential benefits to having a glass of tart cherry juice due to its unique nutritional profile: it can boost the immune system, improve brain function, protect the heart and cardiovascular system, reduce muscle soreness and help with weight management, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
“Tart cherries have a high concentration of anti-inflammatory antioxidants and polyphenols, which help reduce oxidative stress,” Shapiro says. “These nutrients are likely why tart cherry juice consumed before and/or after intense exercise has been shown to help speed recovery and reduce muscle soreness.”
“Tart cherries are well known for aiding recovery after exercise,” adds Amy Goodson, MS, RDwho is a Certified Sports Dietitian and author of The Sports Nutrition Handbook. The antioxidants and bioflavonoids found in tart cherries are believed to scavenge free radicals, reduce DNA breakdown, and strengthen membranes, leading to reduced inflammation and joint pain. Tart cherries have long been used as a treatment for gout and peripheral neuropathy.
One caveat before you start drinking tart cherry juice at bedtime: tart cherry juice is high in sugar and can impact your blood sugar. For example, Cheribuni Pure No Sugar Added Tart Cherry Juice has 25 grams of total sugars and 100 calories in an 8-ounce serving.
Some brands contain added sugars that bring the total sugars to 35 grams or more, or about as much in a can of soda. If you have diabetes, check with your doctor before you start using tart cherry juice as a sleeping pill and ask about taking tart cherry in supplement form to avoid the blood sugar spike.
Jeff Csatari, a contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, is responsible for publishing Galvanized Media books and magazines and advising journalism students through the Zinczenko New Media Center at Bethlehem Moravian University, in Pennsylvania. Learn more about Jeff
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