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The Science of Cherries: The FDA Calls Cherries a Drug

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A 1999 peer-reviewed report in the Journal of Natural Products published by the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, concluded that tart cherries may relieve pain better than aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs. The consumption of about twenty cherries reduces inflammation in a manner similar to that of aspirin or the cox-2 inhibiting drugs, without the side effects of gastric bleeding or vitamin depletion that are associated with these drugs. Molecules in cherries called anthocyanins work to reduce inflammation at one-tenth the dosage of aspirin. Supplements that provide concentrated anthocyanins may make it easier for consumers to achieve these health benefits.

University of Michigan research to be presented at the November 2008 meeting of the American Dietetic Association in Chicago indicates that a diet rich in cherries reduces total cholesterol by 11%, and also reduces two known markers of inflammation that are commonly produced by abdominal fat and linked to an increased risk for heart disease. The study was funded by the Cherry Marketing Institute.

When cherry growers began to cite the scientific research, the FDA sent a warning letter to twenty-nine companies that market cherries, threatening regulatory action if they did not remove the scientific information regarding the anti-inflammatory properties of cherries from their websites. The FDA declared cherries to be “drugs” once health claims for a disease were associated with the product.

Bob Underwood, who sells capsules containing concentrated cherry paste, was quoted in an Associated Press story in 2006 as saying, “We have the government telling people to eat more fruits and vegetables, and we have the U.S. Department of Agriculture funding some of these fruit studies, and now we have another arm of the federal government that says you can’t use the research.”

While cherry growers were being threatened by the FDA, approval was given by the same organization to a drug maker for a new type of cox-2 inhibiting anti-inflammatory drug that claimed it was safer than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen. The new cox-2 drug was advertised on television and in print without the availability of long-term safety data. It was subsequently learned that this drug was no safer than aspirin. No action was taken against the drug maker that submitted misleading preliminary safety data in its application for FDA approval. It is now known that this anti-inflammatory drug caused thousands of side effects and was associated with the deaths of an estimated 20,000 Americans, mostly due to heart attacks. Dr. David Graham of the FDA was a whistleblower, alerting the public to these disturbing facts.

The FDA is broken. AAHF has joined with other key organizations to reform the FDA. Sign the petition today at www.reformFDA.org. The health of all Americans is at stake.

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