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Sweet! Michigan’s Tart Cherries May Stem Effects of Alzheimer’s Disease

The results of research by a Central Michigan University neuroscientist are preliminary, but potentially good news for the Mitten State, where 75 percent of the world’s tart cherries are produced.

A Central Michigan University neuroscientist's research suggests that Michigan's tart cherries may help improve brain function among people suffering Alzheimer's disease and reduce the symptoms of Huntington's disease.
A Central Michigan University neuroscientist's research suggests that Michigan's tart cherries may help improve brain function among people suffering Alzheimer's disease and reduce the symptoms of Huntington's disease.

Some sweet news about Michigan’s tart cherries coming out of Central Michigan University offers hope for persons suffering from Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and other degenerative brain diseases.

Gary Dunbar, director of the neuroscience program at CMU, said a compound developed from extracts from tart cherries improved brain function in mice with Alzheimer’s symptoms and reduced the symptoms of symptoms of Huntington’s in other lab animals, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Health benefits of the state’s tart cherries have been touted before. Earlier studies suggested the antioxidants in the fruit are useful in treating inflammation-related diseases, such as arthritis.

Some findings in the ground-breaking research were published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2012. However, such dietary supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as pharmaceutical supplements are, and remain controversial. Some medical experts insist that when subjected to placebo testing among humans, the results were ineffective, the newspaper said.

Among the skeptics is Dr. Sidney Wolfe, founder and senior adviser to the advocacy group, Public Citizen’s Health Research Group.

“Publicizing something like this, you can give false hopes … to people who start slugging down cherry juice,” Wolfe said.

But Dunbar said the compound, marketed under the name of Cerise and developed by a Michigan entrepreneur whose father maintained a cherry orchard, didn’t cure the lab animals, but offers some encouragement for people with degenerative brain diseases.

“Did it cure them? No,” he said. “Did it slow down the disease process? Yes. Is that important? Well, if I had Huntington’s disease and it gave me – I don’t care if it was one more day of symptom-free living – thank goodness.”

Pleva International founder and chairman Ray Pleva of Traverse City, the entrepreneur who developed Cerise, said the findings, though preliminary, offer some scientific support for stories he has heard anecdotally for years. He said he has scores of testimonials about the therapeutic benefits of Michigan’s tart cherries.

Michigan is the world leader in tart cherry production, growing 75 percent of the world crop.

>>> Related: Canton Students Continue Push for Tart Cherries as State Fruit

>>> Read the full story on the Detroit Free Press.
Keith Brown January 15, 2014 at 12:53 PM
The photograph of the cherries, looks more like Sweet cherries than Tart cherries, that the article talks about.
Margaret Betts January 15, 2014 at 04:29 PM
Agree.

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