Drinking tart cherry juice concentrate significantly improves both the quality and duration of sleep, according to new findings from Northumbria University. Researchers from the School of Life Sciences have found that tart Montmorency cherry juice concentrate significantly increases the levels of melatonin in the body, the hormone which regulates sleep, and could benefit those who have difficulty sleeping due to insomnia, shift work or jet lag. Their findings, which are published this week in the online edition of the European Journal of Nutrition, reveal that people who have consumed tart cherry juice concentrate not only sleep for longer, but they also have improved quality of sleep, or ‘sleep efficiency’. In the study, led by Dr Glyn Howatson in collaboration with Cherryactive, 20 healthy volunteers drank a 30ml serving of
either tart cherry juice concentrate or a placebo juice twice a day for seven days. Urine samples were collected from all participants before and during the investigation to determine levels of melatonin, a naturally occurring compound that heavily influences the human sleep-wake cycle. During the study the participants wore an actigraphy watch sensor which monitored their sleep and wake cycles and kept a daily diary on their sleeping patterns. The researchers found that when participants drank tart cherry juice concentrate for a week there was a significant increase in their urinary melatonin (15-16%) than the control condition and placebo drink samples. The actigraphy measurements of participants who consumed the juice saw an increase of around 15 minutes to the time spent in bed, 25 minutes in their total sleep time and a 5-6% increase in their ‘sleep efficiency’, a global measure of sleep quality. Cherry juice drinkers reported less daytime napping time compared to their normal sleeping habits before the study and the napping times of the placebo group. According to Dr Howatson, this is the first study to show direct evidence that supplementing your diet with a tart Montmorency cherry juice concentrate leads to an increase in circulating melatonin and provides improvements in sleep amongst healthy adults. Dr Howatson, an exercise physiologist, said: “We were initially interested in the application of tart cherries in recovery from strenuous exercise. Sleep forms a critical component in that recovery process, which is often forgotten.
These results show that tart cherry juice concentrate can be used to facilitate sleep in healthy adults and, excitingly, has the potential to be applied as a natural intervention, not only to athletes, but to other populations with insomnia and general disturbed sleep from shift work or jet lag.” The study’s co-authors are fellow Northumbria University academics Dr Jason Ellis, director of the Centre for Sleep Research, School of Life Sciences PhD students Jamie Tallent and Phillip Bell; Benita Middleton of the Centre for Chronobiology at University of Surrey; and Malachy McHugh of the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma in Lenox Hill Hospital, New York. Dr Ellis said: “Although melatonin is available over the counter in other countries, it is not freely available in the UK. What makes these findings exciting is that the melatonin contained in tart cherry juice concentrate is sufficient to elicit a healthy sleep response. “What’s more, these results provide us with more evidence surrounding the relationship between how we sleep and what we consume.” News from: Northumbria University, Newcastle UK. ~ The cherry is the fruit of many plants of the genus Prunus, and is a fleshy stone fruit. The cherry fruits of commerce are usually obtained from a limited number of species, including especially cultivars of the wild cherry, Prunus avium. The name ‘cherry’, often as the compound term ‘cherry tree’, may also be applied to many other members of the genus Prunus, or to all members of the genus as a collective term. The fruits of
many of these are not cherries, and have other common names, including plum, apricot, peach, and others. The name ‘cherry’ is also frequently used in reference to cherry blossom. True cherry fruits are members of the subgenus Cerasus, which is distinguished by having the flowers in small corymbs of several together (not singly, nor in racemes), and by having a smooth fruit with only a weak groove or none along one side. The subgenus is native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, with two species in America, three in Europe, and the remainder in Asia. The majority of eating cherries are derived from either Prunus avium, the wild cherry (sometimes called the sweet cherry), or from Prunus cerasus, the sour cherry. Cherries contain anthocyanins, the red pigment in berries. Cherry anthocyanins have been shown to reduce pain and inflammation in rats. Anthocyanins are also potent antioxidants under active research for a variety of potential health benefits. According to a study funded by the Cherry Marketing Institute presented at the Experimental Biology 2008 meeting in San Diego, rats that received whole tart cherry powder mixed into a high-fat diet did not gain as much weight or build up as much body fat, and their blood showed much lower levels of inflammation indicators that have been linked to heart disease and diabetes. In addition, they had significantly lower blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides than the other rats. G.N.
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