Drinking tart Montmorency cherry juice can reduce high blood pressure as much as medicines, according to a recent study.
The findings are published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Researchers found that men with early signs of hypertension had a 7% reduction in blood pressure after drinking Montmorency cherry juice concentrate.
This reduction is comparable to the level achieved by drugs for high blood pressure.
High blood pressure affects over five million people in the UK. It can increase risk of heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease, stroke or dementia. Normal blood pressure is around 120/80 mmHg.
In the study, researchers from Northumbria University tested 15 people who had early signs of high blood pressure (e.g., 130/90 mmHg). This means they were at higher risk of heart problems.
These people were given either 60ml of a Montmorency cherry concentrate or the same amount of a commercially available fruit-flavored cordial.
Researchers measured their blood pressure before and after they drank the cherry concentrate on an hourly basis.
In addition, these people took other heart health screening tests on a regular basis over the following 8 hours.
The results showed that people who drank the cherry concentrate had a reduction in their blood pressure of 7 mmHg in the three hours after the drink.
Previously, researchers have shown that if blood pressure was reduced 5-6 mmHg over a sustained period, people would have a 38% reduced risk of stroke and 23% reduced risk of coronary heart disease.
Interestingly, those people with higher blood pressure levels got the most benefit.
The biggest improvement in systolic blood pressure occurred when specific compounds (e.g., phenolic acids, protocatechuic and vanillic) within the cherry concentrate reached their peak levels in the blood.
Thus, these compounds might be, at least in part, responsible for the blood pressure reduction.
Lead author Karen Keane, explained that most heart disease is caused by risk factors that can be controlled, treated or modified.
These risk factors include high blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, tobacco use, lack of physical activity and diabetes.
High blood pressure is the leading cause of deaths from heart disease, and a small reduction in blood pressure can have a large impact on death rates.
The magnitude of the blood pressure reduction in this study was comparable to those achieved by drugs. This shows that Montmorency cherries may be important in the effective management of high blood pressure.
The exciting findings also show that eating the right types of foods can provide potential health benefits.