Cherries have been shown to lower cholesterol, blood sugar, fat storage in the liver and oxidative stress. They can also help the body handle fat and sugar, according test carried out by the University of Michigan.
These are all factors linked with heart disease and diabetes. Such factors are know as metabolic syndrome.
Researchers gave tart cherry powder to rats during the tests, but it is not yet known whether the findings will translate directly onto human health.
Mitchell Seymour, lead author of the study, said: "Rats fed tart cherries as one per cent of their total diet had reduced markers of metabolic syndrome.
"We are interested in a whole-foods approach, using amounts of fruit that are relevant to human diets. We are enthusiastic about the findings that tart cherries conferred these beneficial effects at such a modest daily intake."
Scientists have said there is some way to go before dietary recommendations can be made in accordance with the findings.