April 23/Washington/PRNewswire -- Research has long established the anti-inflammatory benefits of tart cherries, often linked to the fruit's powerful red compounds called anthocyanins. According to new studies presented at the prestigious Experimental Biology annual conference in Boston, tart cherries could also have surprising new benefits – helping support strong bones and  reducing stroke-related complications.

The studies found:
• Reduced Risk of Bone Loss: In a first-of-its-kind study at Oklahoma State University, researchers found that adding Montmorency tart cherries to the diet reduced age-related bone loss in mice, increasing bone density and showing signs of increased bone-building during aging. Osteoporosis and low bone mass are currently estimated to be a major public health threat for almost 44 million U.S. women and men aged 50 and older, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation.
• Anti-Inflammation and Reduced Stroke Complications: University of Michigan researchers compared the effects of Montmorency tart cherries to a diabetes medication in rats prone to stroke. While the drug is helpful for diabetes, it can also increase stroke risk.  Compared to drug, tart cherry intake significantly improved blood pressure and improved balance and coordination as the rats aged. Interestingly, the combination of tart cherries and drug was better than drug alone.

Both teams of researchers suggest the benefits may be linked to the tart red fruit's anthocyanin content, the antioxidant compounds responsible for the fruit's bright red color. "The potential of both of these studies is tremendous," said Mitch Seymour, PhD RAC at the University of Michigan Health System. "The more we study tart cherries, the more powerful, unique benefits we uncover."

According to Brenda Smith, PhD at the Oklahoma State University, "While more research is needed to understand the long term bone benefits, tart cherries have the potential to impact health and overall wellbeing, including helping to reduce age-related bone loss."

Over the last 10 years, a growing body of research continues to support cherries' role in reducing inflammation, aiding muscle recovery post-workout, arthritis and heart health. There is even some research that suggests cherries may help regulate natural sleep patterns.

Some of the research was funded by the Cherry Marketing Institute, which provided an unrestricted grant to the Oklahoma State University to conduct the research and was not directly involved in the design, conduct or analysis of the projects.