More than 50 million Americans in the United States suffer from chronic inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes, according to the Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute. Inflammatory disease patients are often debilitated because the significant toll that inflammation has on their health. Doctors often suppress the immune response with immunosuppressive agents or sometimes steroids, but none of these approaches actually stop the processes of the underlying disease or allow for damaged cells to be restored. For those who are at risk of developing an inflammatory disease, eating 45 Bing cherries a day can lower the risk of developing chronic inflammatory diseases, suggests a recent study.

Findings published in the Journal of Nutrition reveal that consuming the sweet cherries could improve blood circulation levels for nine biomarkers of inflammatory disease. Researchers from the University of California, Davis, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Western Human Nutrition Research Center’s Agricultural Research Service, focused on 18 men and women between the ages of 41 and 61 who were healthy but had somewhat elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) — a biomarker for inflammation associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other conditions. The normal range for CRP is less than 1 milligram per liter; the participants of the study had a CPR range of 1 to 14 milligrams per liter, reports United Press International.

CRP is a substance that is produced by the liver and increases the chances of inflammation in the body. Genetics, a sedentary lifestyle, too much stress, and exposure to environmental toxins like secondhand smoke can cause elevated CRP levels, said Andrew Weil, M.D., on his website. CRP levels are not always indicative of the risk of heart disease in patients, especially if they are being treated for high blood pressure or high LDL (bad) cholesterol, believes Weil.

The participants in the study were asked to add 45 Bing cherries to their diet each day for 63 days. The researchers evaluated the protein levels in fasting blood samples before, during, and after the participants' Bing cherry diet at day seven, 21, 35, and 63. The team then measured the changes in the 89 commonly known biomarkers for inflammation, immune status, cardiovascular disease, blood clotting, and liver and kidney function.

The results of the study showed that consuming 45 Bing cherries a day can lower the levels of nine biomarkers for chronic inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

The sweet, low-calorie fruit is considered to be a head-to-toe anti-inflammatory agent by James Michael, vice president of marketing for Northwest Cherry Growers & Washington State Fruit Commission.

For recipes with Bing cherries, click here.