Greater than one-third of adults in the United States have metabolic syndrome (MetS), a cluster of risk factors highly associated with the development of cardiovascular diseases. Premature vascular dysfunction in MetS may lead to accelerated age-related atherogenesis and arterial stiffening, thereby increasing cardiovascular risk. Montmorency tart cherries (Prunus cerasus L.) are rich in bioactive compounds, such as anthocyanins, known to exert cardiovascular protective effects. Previous research suggests that tart cherry juice consumption may improve cardiovascular health. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of daily consumption of tart cherry juice on hemodynamics, arterial stiffness, and blood biomarkers of cardiovascular and metabolic health in men and women with MetS. In a randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-arm pilot clinical trial, 19 men and women 20 to 60 years of age with MetS consumed 240 mL of tart cherry juice (Tart Cherry; n = 5 males, 4 females) or an isocaloric placebo-control drink (Control; n = 5 males, 5 females) twice daily for 12 weeks. Arterial stiffness (pulse wave velocity), brachial and aortic blood pressures, wave reflection (augmentation index), and blood biomarkers of cardiovascular and metabolic health were assessed at baseline and 6 and 12 weeks. Oxidized low-density lipoprotein and soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 were significantly lower (P = .047 and P = .036, respectively) in Tart Cherry than Control at 12 weeks, but were not significantly lower than baseline values. There was a trend for total cholesterol to be lower (P = .08) in Tart Cherry than Control at 12 weeks. No significant changes were observed in hemodynamics, arterial stiffness, or other blood biomarkers assessed. These results suggest that daily tart cherry consumption may attenuate processes involved in accelerated atherogenesis without affecting hemodynamics or arterial stiffness parameters in this population. The pilot nature of this study warrants interpreting these findings with caution, and future clinical trials with a larger sample size are needed to confirm these findings.
Keywords: anthocyanins; arterial stiffness; atherosclerosis; blood pressure; cardiovascular disease; polyphenols; tart cherries; vascular function.