Cherry juice could be the new sports drink after scientists found it helps ease pain after running.

People who drank the unsweetened juice while training for a long distance relay reported much less duress after exercise than those who did not.  Scientists believe cherries' benefits are likely because of the fruit's natural anti-inflammation power – attributed to antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins which also give cherries their bright red colour.

As well as recommending it as a new 'sports drink', they say the findings could have far-reaching benefits for the millions currently taking over-the-counter medication to reduce muscle pain.

A growing body of research suggests cherries could reduce inflammation related to heart disease, arthritis and may even help maintain muscle strength for those suffering from fibromyalgia a common and chronic widespread pain disorder.

In the study, sixty healthy adults aged between 18 and 50 years who drank 10.5 ounces cherry juice twice daily in the week before the long-distance race had far less muscle pain than those who consumed another juice.  On a scale from 0 to 10, they had a two point lower self-reported pain level at the completion of the run – a clinically significant difference.

While more research is needed to fully understand the effects of tart cherry juice the early findings, presented at the American College of Sports Medicine Conference in Seattle, indicate cherries may work like common medications used by runners to alleviate post-exercise inflammation.

Dr Kerry Kuehl, sports medicine physician at Oregon Health and Science University, said: "For most runners, post-race treatment consists of RICE – rest, ice, compression and elevation – and traditional NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).  But NSAIDS can have adverse effects – negative effects you may be able to avoid by using a natural, whole food alternative, like cherry juice, to reduce muscle inflammation before exercise."

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent  Published: 8:00AM BST 30 May 2009

  • Dec 31, 2014
  • Category: Sports
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