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Life really is a bowl of cherries

February 11th, 2015


Life really is a bowl of cherries

Supplementary food and health food are increasingly popular these days because people are more interested in protecting themselves from illnesses rather than waiting until they fall ill and need treatment. Those who are already sick are also afraid of taking many pills because there might be side effects, but naturally, we are not afraid of consuming food because we need it to survive.

What many people don’t know is that a lot of medicine (both traditional herbal medicine and modern medicine) comes from food, and many kinds of food have medicinal properties. Too much of a certain food can be just as bad as taking too much medicine.

Food that can be dangerous when consumed in large amounts include fatty food, deep fried items and sugar. If we consume too much of those, the cholesterol level in the blood will increase, resulting in heart problems. This can be just as bad as some medicines’ side effects.

Some medicines are made from natural food. Supplementary food in the form of tablets or capsules can be good and bad for the health, and in certain people, there might even be undesirable side effects.

Generally, for medicine to be sold in the market, there has to be lower than 1% side effects. This takes a lot of research and scientific investigation based on reliable statistics, not to mention a lot of expense. This is why some medicines are absurdly expensive.

One food with medicinal properties is the cherry. It might not be well-known as health food in Thailand, as it is not a local fruit, and there are just so many fruits here.

Cherries are known for lowering blood sugar level, promoting good sleep, boosting energy and relieving joint pains and gout. However, the FDA in the United States has warned companies that sell or promote cherries not to make exaggerated claims about their benefits.

There are two kinds of cherries. The sweeter kind are called bing cherries, and they are more popular because of their sweet, delicious taste. The other kind, tart cherries, is less sweet but more medicinal. Both kinds have antioxidant properties as they have anti-cyanine, which is responsible for giving the colours red, purple and blue to fruits and vegetables.

Research has shown that antioxidants in tart cherries can lower inflammation just like aspirin and other joint-inflammation medicines, while bing cherries can lower uric acid, which causes gout.

A recent study showed that eating 45 bing cherries a day can have anti-inflammatory effects. This chronic low level of inflammation was found in people with heart disease risks (so it was hoped that this would mean lower risk for heart disease). Apart from that, another study proved that freshly squeezed juice made from 100-120 tart cherries, when drunk daily, can reduce post-workout muscle pain.

Before declaring cherries your favourite medicine, stop and take a look at the negative side, too.

The first thing you should be aware of is that the claims about cherries lowering cholesterol level, blood sugar level, spreading of carcinogenic cells and preventing amnesia are based on animal tests. Studies performed on humans are limited, and mostly involved healthy people.

Moreover, most studies use tart cherries, which are sour.

Finally, most studies that make those claims require a big amount of cherries, so much that we could end up adding 400 kilocalories to our diet, or as much as eating two plates of rice.

This could be like the case of my patient who tried to lose weight by eating oranges – 10kilogrammes a day – because she thought fruits couldn’t make her fat.

To sum up, cherries may be delicious and healthy, but please do not use cherries to replace medicine. For prevention, they can be good for your health. Besides, there are many other red, purple and blue fruits that can be grown locally, and they have just as many antioxidants.

Moderation, whether for food or for medicine, is the way to go!


Prof Nithi Mahanonda is consultant cardiologist and interventionist, Perfect Heart Institute.




ยาหัวใจ (ตอน 1)
Blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism)
Diabetes and heart disease
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