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Europe: Cherries are seen as functional food for a healthy diet, researcher tells FNI

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Northumbria University researchers have found that after drinking a Montmorency cherry concentrate, uric acid levels in the body significantly reduced in a few hours.

The study was published in The Journal of Functional Foods in September 2014.

Gout occurs when excess uric acid, a naturally-occurring substance found in the body, crystallises in the joints.

Dr Glyn Howatson, a physiologist in the Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation at Northumbria University, tells Food News International what the research can mean to food and beverage (F&B) manufacturers.

FNI: What can this research potentially bring to the F&B manufacturing industry?

Dr Howatson: This research highlights the importance of fruit and vegetables in managing or modulating physiological processes.

In this instance, inflammation and uric acid is reduced, which could potentially be used with those suffering from gout as uric acid is the principal cause of the issues.

FNI: How will this research encourage F&B manufacturers to work towards a possible health claim due to the use of cherries in their products for gout sufferers?

Dr Howatson: Health claims need to be carefully managed.

This does not report a cure for gout but it can modulate factors associated with outbreaks of gout.

More work is needed. From my perspective, so things need to be restricted about what happened and what it all means.

It is always better to be cautious in these matters, and stick to the facts and make suggests of the next steps and how things could be applied to a wider population.

FNI: What are your views on naturally-occuring food such as cherries, blueberries and green tea as viable drugs as they seem to serve a health function/benefit?

Dr Howatson: These foods should not be viewed as drugs, but as foods that can provide some medicinal value, in exactly the same way that a healthy balanced diet is better for you than a diet of pies and chips.

Our research and the work of others that examine functional foods highlight how we could use these foods more effectively to balance our diet and potentially help in maintaining our health.

FNI: Do you intend to carry out an extensive study across people groups to study the effect of cherries on their health?

Dr Howatson: We are interested in many element of cherries as they are a rich source of plant compounds that could help maintain out health (as do many other fruits and vegetables).

We are particularly interested in how cherries might help aid in exercise recovery by managing inflammation and oxidative stress – this has potential application to other conditions that display inflammation and oxidative stress.

We would love to do a further study in a gouty arthritic population to test the efficacy in lowering uric acid in a clinical group.

Finally, there might be some indication that vascular function could be modulated with the tart cherries and this is an area we would like to some work.