Transcript: Anti-inflammatory Life is a Bowl of Cherries
Haggis, the national dish of Scotland, is a savory pudding of heart, liver, lungs, and oatmeal traditionally stuffed inside of a stomach. And when that stomach goes into our own stomach, our digestive enzymes and stomach acid have no problem digesting it away. But how come our body digests the stomach lining of a sheep on our plate, without digesting our own stomach lining? It’s meat, we’re meat, why don’t we digest our own stomach every time we eat?
In part because we have an enzyme called cyclooxygenase that protects the lining of our stomach. There are two types, COX-1 and COX-2. Cyclooxygenase 1 is thought to be the primary protector of our stomach, whereas COX-2 is an enzyme responsible for pain and inflammation. In fact that’s how anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, and naproxen work, by inhibiting the COX-2 enzyme. But these are nonselective drugs, they inhibit both COX-2 and COX-1, which is trying to protect out stomach lining. That’s why though drugs like ibuprofen are great at relieving pain and inflammation, they kill thousands every year due to ulcerations through the stomach wall resulting in life-threatening bleeding and perforation.
What are the risks on an individual level? On average, one in about 1200 people who take this class of drugs for at least two months will die as a result. To put this into perspective, we can compare the death rate from anti-inflammatory drug side-effects to the risks associated with some well-known events. For example, it may be safer to go bungee jumping a few hundred times.
So what we need is some sort of selective COX-2 inhibitor, inhibiting the pain and inflammation of COX-2 without inhibiting the stomach protection of COX-1. And that’s what we got, anti-inflammatory drugs easier on the stomach. You remember vioxx right, blockbuster drug bought in billions in profits, before it started killing tens of thousands of peoples. Internal emails show how the drug manufacturer responded to the revelation that they were killing people. They drew up a list of doctors who were trying to warn people to “neutralize” them, and if that didn’t work, discredit them.
So is that what we’re left with? Death from internal bleeding from one type of drug, or death from heart attack from another type of drug. If only there was some sort of natural COX-2 inhibitor. There is - cherries, which unlike ibuprofen suppress COX-2 more than COX-1.
In videos I did on insomnia and reducing muscle soreness, I talked about the benefits of sour cherries, the types of cherries used in baking. But this was for sweet cherries, you eat fresh. Tart cherries had less of an effect. Regular red sweet bing cherries were shown to have a greater anti-inflammatory activity than tart cherries, which makes sense, since we think it may be the anthocyanin phytonutrients in cherries, and there’s lots more in sweet red cherries than in tart, and nearly none in yellow Rainier cherries.
Because fresh cherries have limited availability, what about other cherry products? Fresh is best, but frozen would appear to be the second-best choice.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.
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