Tart Cherry Juice May Reduce Muscle Damage

The potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of a tart cherry juice blend given to exercising horses were the topic of a study presented at the 2008 Convention of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) by Norm Ducharme, DVM, MSc, Dipl. ACVS, James Law Professor of Surgery in the Section of Large Animal Surgery at Cornell University.

A recent human study has found that tart cherry juice blend (TCJB) had beneficial effects on exercising muscle. The objective was to determine if TCJB can lessen exercise-induced muscle damage in horses, as measured by serum enzymatic markers.

For the study, six unconditioned horses were randomly divided into two groups. For two weeks prior to exercise, one group received 48 ounces of TCJB every 12 hours while the other received a placebo in the same amount and frequency. Researchers incrementally challenged each horse in its exercise program and took serial blood samples to measure specific muscle marker enzymes. These blood samples were taken at the onset of the study, before and during each exercise test, hourly for the four hours following exercise, then daily for five days after the exercise test.

The exercise test created oxidative stresses on the horses, as evidenced by increases in associated markers of inflammation and muscle damage. The researchers found that TCJB treatment was able to significantly reduce standard markers of muscle damage, aspartate aminotransferase and creatine kinase. As other markers of oxidative stress and inflammation were not affected by the TCJB treatment, the mechanism of action remains undetermined.

They concluded that supplementation with TCJB might enable horses to return to training sooner than usual following a competitive or rigorous training event due to lessened muscle damage.

About the Author

Nancy S. Loving, DVM

Nancy S. Loving, DVM, owns Loving Equine Clinic in Boulder, Colorado, and has a special interest in managing the care of sport horses. Her recent book, All Horse Systems Go, is a comprehensive veterinary care and conditioning resource in full color that covers all facets of horse care (available at Shop.TheHorse.com or by calling 800/582-5604). She has also authored the books Go the Distance as a resource for endurance horse owners, Conformation and Performance, and First Aid for Horse and Rider in addition to many veterinary articles for both horse owner and professional audiences.

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