Perhaps George Washington wouldnt have chopped down his fathers cherry tree if he knew what chemists now know. They have identified a group of naturally occurring chemicals abundant in cherries that could help lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. In early laboratory studies using animal pancreatic cells, the chemicals, called anthocyanins, increased insulin production by 50 percent, according to a peer-reviewed study scheduled to appear in the Jan. 5 issue of the American Chemical Societys Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. ACS is the worlds largest scientific society.
Anthocyanins are a class of plant pigments responsible for the color of many fruits, including cherries. They also are potent antioxidants, highly active chemicals that have been increasingly associated with a variety of health benefits, including protection against heart disease and cancer. "It is possible that consumption of cherries and other fruits containing these compounds [anthocyanins] could have a significant impact on insulin levels in humans," says study leader Muralee Nair, Ph.D., a natural products chemist at Michigan State University in East Lansing. "Were excited with the laboratory results so far, but more studies are needed." Michigan is the top cherry producing state in the nation.
Until human studies are done on cherry anthocyanins, those with diabetes should continue following their doctors treatment recommendations, including any medicine prescribed, and monitor their insulin carefully, the researcher says. The compounds show promise for both the prevention of type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes, the most common type, and for helping control glucose levels in those who already have diabetes, he adds.
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