The cherries are rich in phytochemicals and had been shown to improve the function of blood vessels, stimulate the release of nitric oxide (which helps blood vessels expand) and reduce inflammation—in lab and animal studies.
So British researchers set out to see how cherries affect people.
In a randomized, crossover, blinded study, they gave 15 men with prehypertension—blood pressure levels of 130 systolic or higher, 80 diastolic or higher, or both—either a drink containing about four tablespoons (60 ml) of a tart cherry concentrate diluted in water or a similarly flavored drink that had no cherries. Two weeks later, they switched groups and redid the experiment.
Results: On cherry-drinking days, the men’s systolic blood pressure dropped by an average of 7 mmHg. That’s a significant effect, as strong as that provided by many hypertension drugs—and if sustained over five years or more, that kind of drop is linked to a 38% reduced risk for stroke and 23% reduced risk for heart disease. Diastolic blood pressure also dropped but not as dramatically. (The study, it should be acknowledged, was partly funded by England’s Cherry Marketing Institute.)
Want to try it yourself? The researchers used a product called CherryActive Concentrate (made in England but available online in the US), from 100% Montmorency cherries. But be aware that fruit juice, and especially concentrate, is high in sugar—even without any added sugar.
If you want to take a more whole-foods approach, you can include tart cherries and tart cherry juice in your diet—along with other foods known to lower blood pressure, including celery, cocoa, red wine (as well as grapes and raisins), beet juice and soy foods, plus plenty of foods rich in potassium and calcium. To learn more, see Bottom Line’s “Guide to Preventing and Lowering High Blood Pressure—Naturally.”