Montmorency tart cherries can improve gut health, according to new research published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
An international team of scientists found that the cherries helped to positively impact the gut microbiome – a collection of trillions of bacteria and other microbes that live in the intestinal tract.
The microbiome has been the focus of multiple studies in recent years due to its potential role in maintaining digestive health, as well as its impact on immunity, heart health, blood sugar control, weight management and even brain health.
The researchers speculate that it may be due to the polyphenols (anthocyanins and other flavonoids) in Montmorency tart cherries.. Polyphenols in plant-based foods are broken down by microbes to stimulate growth of good bacteria.
The study’s principal investigator, Franck Carbonero, said: ‘Montmorency tart cherries were a logical food to study due to their unique composition of polyphenols, including chlorogenic acids. Our results suggest that the unique polyphenol mixture in tart cherries may help positively shape the gut microbiome, which could potentially have far-reaching health implications.’
Researchers conducted both human and laboratory experiments to determine the impact of cherries on the microbiome. In the human trial, nine healthy adults, 23-30 years old, drank 8 ounces of Montmorency tart cherry juice (from concentrate) daily for five days. These individuals were non-smokers and had not taken antibiotics (which can affect the microbiome) in the 12 weeks prior and during the study. Using stool samples, the participants’ microbiome was analysed before and after the dietary intervention, and food frequency questionnaires were used to evaluate their overall diet.
The microbiome was positively altered (primarily measured by the increase in good bacteria) after just five days of drinking Montmorency tart cherry concentrate. Individuals who ate a more Western diet (low in fruits, vegetables and fiber) potentially had a lower ability to metabolise polyphenols, thereby reducing bioavailability and any potential health benefits in the tart cherries.
While the dietary intervention was based on a limited number of human volunteers and more research is needed to support these conclusions, the results help build the foundation for future research and suggest Montmorency tart cherries can play a role in positively shaping the microbiome and maintaining gut health.