Full of cherries and vinegar

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 54 million people in the United States report that they’ve been diagnosed with arthritis. The role of diet in helping to manage arthritis can be confusing. Claims about “miracle” foods seem to be matched by warnings about foods that potentially trigger arthritis symptoms.

Here’s a look at how cherry juice and apple cider vinegar may fit into your efforts to tame arthritis pain and stiffness.

Cherries are a rich source of anthocyanins, which give the fruit its red color. According to the journal Folia Horticulturae, a 100 grams (g) of dark cherries delivers between 82 and 297 milligrams (mg) of anthocyanins.

A member of the flavonoid group, anthocyanins have antioxidant properties that may battle inflammation. However, scientists don’t understand exactly how this mechanism works.

A double-blind study published in a supplement to the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism revealed that tart cherry juice might have a role in easing pain from osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee.

The study found that people who drank two bottles of tart cherry juice every day for six weeks had decreased pain scores compared with the group that drank a placebo. Each bottle of juice contained the equivalent of 45 tart cherries and a hefty dose of sugar — 31 g.

Researchers have tried to show that cherries can reduce OA pain. One study showed that 20 women with OA had decreased levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) after they drank two bottles of tart cherry juice per day for 21 days. A decreased CRP level is associated with reduced amounts of inflammation.

A study from the Baylor Research Institute showed that a gelatin capsule made from Montmorency cherries could help relieve OA pain. The study was small and wasn’t published, and a follow-up study failed to confirm the results. The cherry capsules showed no better pain improvement than placebo in the follow up, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

Some research demonstrates a potential role for cherries and cherry extract in reducing gout flares. Gout is a form of arthritis. A gout flare, or “attack,” produces joint pain, swelling, and redness.

One study by the Boston University School of Medicine found that eating cherries could help prevent gout attacks. The study followed 633 gout patients for one year. Researchers looked at two-day intervals and found that those who consumed cherries over a two-day period had a 35 percent lower risk of gout attacks than the group that didn’t eat cherries at all.

The science on a link between cherries and arthritis relief is still evolving. As the research continues, why not enjoy the delicious and healthy red fruit? Here are some ways to get more cherries into your diet:

  • Toss dried tart cherries into a salad.
  • Stir dried tart cherries into muffin or pancake batter.
  • Add a dash of tart cherry juice to your water to give an antioxidant boost to your hydration.
  • Top your yogurt and granola with fresh cherries.
  • Enjoy a handful of plain fresh cherries.

You can keep your own notes on your arthritis symptoms, and see if cherries help.

Proponents of apple cider vinegar claim that its antioxidant beta carotene and acetic acid produce miraculous effects in easing arthritis pain. However, no scientific studies support these claims. A United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) analysis of cider vinegar shows no measurable amounts of beta carotene or other vitamins.

A splash of cider vinegar to spark up your salad adds tang, but swigging the stuff or swallowing vinegar pills haven’t been shown to help arthritis. In fact, the Arthritis Foundation lists apple cider vinegar in an article on arthritis food myths.

No specific “arthritis diet” has been proven to reduce arthritis symptoms. However, a healthy diet is a key part of living well with the condition. Fill your plate with fruit, vegetables, nuts, beans, and seeds to keep weight in check and help control OA.

Healthy eating may also potentially reduce inflammation from gout or rheumatoid arthritis. Include apple cider vinegar and cherries in a fruit- and vegetable-rich diet to help fuel your energy, boost immunity, and stay in a normal weight range.