The University of Texas Health Science Center recently began to quantify the availability and activity of the melatonin in cherry products. Melatonin is a potent antioxidant for which there is extensive evidence showing it to be significant in improving the body’s circadian rhythms and natural sleep patterns.
In their preliminary work, Dr. Russel Reiter and Dr. Dun-xian Tan used radioimmunoassay (RIA) and high performance liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection (HPLC-EC) to identify substantial levels of melatonin in tart cherry juice concentrate. The amount of melatonin found, says Dr. Reiter, “is extremely significant.” Although melatonin is found in the body in extremely small quantities, slight increases in melatonin levels can produce very positive results.
Researchers are now working to determine the amount of active melatonin available to the human body after the consumption of tart cherry juice or other cherry products. Once identified, researchers will be able to calculate the optimum level of cherries that should be consumed to achieve the greatest health benefit. Dr. Reiter points out, “as we age, the human body’s ability to produce melatonin decreases,” so it may be beneficial to find a way to increase melatonin levels, particularly for the elderly. Including cherries as part of a healthy diet could be a way to do this.