Cherry juice to treat high blood pressure? Don’t stock up on the stuff just yet

Drinking cherry juice is an effective way to reduce blood pressure, according to today’s headlines. Yet the research, funded by the US Cherry Marketing Institute, does not appear to bear out the claims (see our verdict below).

The scientists behind the study, from Northumbria University, tested 15 people with early signs of high blood pressure, giving them 60ml of cherry concentrate, while a control group drank the same amount of a different fruit-flavoured cordial.

They said those who drank the cherry juice experienced a seven per cent blood pressure drop within three hours — enough, they claimed, to reduce the risk of heart disease by 23 per cent and of stroke by 38 per cent.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that cherry juice had an impact on blood pressure because it contains phenolic acids. The researchers found that blood pressure was lowest when these naturally occurring antioxidants peaked in the bloodstream.

Study leader Karen Keane said: ‘The majority of cardiovascular disease is caused by risk factors that can be controlled, treated or modified. These include high blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, tobacco use, lack of physical activity and diabetes.

‘Raised blood pressure is the leading cause of deaths from cardiovascular disease, yet relatively small reductions in blood pressure can have a large impact on mortality rates. The magnitude of the blood pressure lowering effects we observed was comparable to those achieved by a single anti-hypertensive drug and highlights the potential importance that Montmorency cherries could have in the effective management of high blood pressure.’

The study’s co-author, Professor Glyn Howatson, said: ‘This is the first study to investigate the acute effects of Montmorency tart cherry consumption on blood pressure, arterial stiffness and microvascular vasodilation in males with early hypertension.’

Instant analysis
The study makes some bold claims — most notably that cherry juice is ‘as good as medication’ for high blood pressure. But this is a pretty big extrapolation from a trial that consisted of (wait for it) 15 healthy men with a mean age of 31 and a mean starting blood pressure of 137/82 (ie not particularly high at all, and certainly not the demographic of people who would be offered blood pressure medication), with the effects being measured over only a few hours. No long-term data is mentioned.
MB
Research score: 1/5