Anti-inflammatory Life Is a Bowl of Cherries

Anti-inflammatory Life Is a Bowl of Cherries
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Sweet red Bing cherries may act as a selective COX-2 inhibitor, reducing inflammation without the damage to our stomach and gut lining caused by NSAID drugs like ibuprofen.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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 our 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, about one in about 1,200 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. Like Vioxx; blockbuster drug, bought in billions in profits—before it started killing tens of thousands of people. Internal emails show how the drug manufacturer responded to the revelation they were killing people. They drew up a list of doctors who were trying to warn people, and tried to “neutralize” them. 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 side effects 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 the sweet cherries you eat fresh. Tart cherries had less of an effect.

“[S]weet [regular red 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 the 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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 our 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, about one in about 1,200 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. Like Vioxx; blockbuster drug, bought in billions in profits—before it started killing tens of thousands of people. Internal emails show how the drug manufacturer responded to the revelation they were killing people. They drew up a list of doctors who were trying to warn people, and tried to “neutralize” them. 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 side effects 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 the sweet cherries you eat fresh. Tart cherries had less of an effect.

“[S]weet [regular red 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 the 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thank to Duncan Brown (Cradlehall)cyaneyed, and elizabeth.tov via flickr; PDPhotos via Pixabay; and the Drug Industry Documents Archive.

Nota del Doctor

Here are my videos I mentioned about tart pie cherries: Tart Cherries for Insomnia and Reducing Muscle Soreness with Berries.

Here are two ways I incorporate cherries into my diet:

Other studies in which anti-inflammatory drugs were compared with natural dietary remedies include: Turmeric Curcumin & Osteoarthritis and Turmeric Curcumin & Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Anti-inflammatory activity in a test tube is one thing, but can cherries actually be used clinically to treat inflammatory diseases? Stay tuned for Gout Treatment with a Cherry on Top!

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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