Tart Cherry Promotes Melatonin

January 17, 2013

Tart cherry juice shows melatonin and sleep support.

By Robby Gardner, Associate Editor

 

Tart cherries (Prunus cerasus) contain naturally high levels of melatonin, a key compound in the human sleep-and-wake cycle, and new research in the European Journal of Nutrition confirms that melatonin from tart cherries is absorbed by humans.

Knowledge of tart cherries containing melatonin is nothing new. In 2001, Burkhardt et al. even observed that the Montmorency variety, in particular, contains about six times more melatonin than the Balaton variety. Yet, a PubMed search yields scant evidence of tart cherry supporting human melatonin levels or sleep factors-until now.

In an admittedly low-powered human trial, researchers assigned 20 adult subjects to 30 ml of tart cherry juice concentrate or placebo daily for 7 days, analyzed sleep quality, and analyzed urine for 6-sulfatoxymelatonin, an active melatonin metabolite found in the human body. As hypothesized, total melatonin increased in the cherry juice group and not the placebo group. Cherry juice consumption also significantly increased time spent in bed, total sleep time, and sleep efficiency measured by ActiWatch software.

Lead researcher Glyn Howatson of Northumbria University in Newcastle, United Kingdom writes that improved sleep parameters along with increased melatonin levels are previously undocumented in tart cherry research. Only one other study has focused on Montmorency cherry juice and sleep parameters, but the cherry juice was blended with apple juice, and something else was missing:  

 

Unfortunately, they did not measure melatonin; however, data from our investigation lend additional evidence that improved sleep quality is mediated by the increase in dietary melatonin contained within the cherries.

 

Howatson’s latest cherry study used cherry juice provided by CherryActive (Surrey, UK).