by Life Enthusiast Staff
- One cup of raw cranberries contains only 46 calories.
- Includes nutrients Potassium, beta-carotene and Vitamin C.
- Berries are used for sauces, jellies, pies and beverages.
- Excellent for the respiratory system.
- Kills bacteria and viruses in the kidneys, bladder and urinary tract.
- Contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, zinc, manganese, copper, selenium,
- Vitamin C, Vitamin B1 (thiamin) Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (niacin),
- Vitamin B5, (pantothenic), Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), folate, and Vitamin A.
- Research shows that cranberries have the ability to decrease total cholesterol and increase blood flow.
The Benefits of Cranberries
The Proanothcyanidins found in cranberries have been shown to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections. Cranberries effectiveness in both treating and preventing urinary tract infections has been confirmed by eight separate scientific studies which show that cranberries prevent E. coli bacteria from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract. Since 90% of urinary tract infections are caused by E. coli, cranberries provide significant protection.
Cranberries have an extremely high level of antioxidant phenols. This study of cranberries powerful antioxidant effects suggests that they may inhibit the growth of human breast cancer cells, as well as reduce the risk of gum disease.
They may also inhibit ulcer-causing bacteria from sticking to the wall of the stomach. Cranberries are also rich in flavonoids. These photo nutrients have been shown to inhibit certain types of cancer, as well as having an antibacterial effect. Polyphenolic compounds found in the berries may help to protect against neurodegenerative diseases often associated with aging.
Excellent source of anthocyanidins, pycnogenol-like substances. Cranberry is legendary for cleansing and prevention of infections of the urinary tract. Blocks damaging effects of some toxins.
5.5% Anthocyanidins, Vitamins, minerals & enzymatic pigments.
Drinking cranberry juice is a common home remedy for a urinary tract infection, but just how it works was not understood.
A group of researchers believe they have found the answer: The effect is due not to the highly acidic nature of cranberries but to specific compounds in cranberries that inhibit the adherence of Escherichia coli (bacteria) to uroepithelial cells.
Escherichia coli, or E. coli, is a bacterium found normally in the digestive tract. However, if certain strains of the bacteria gain access to the normally sterile environment of the bladder and urinary tract, the bacteria can trigger an infection, with symptoms including a frequent, painful urge to urinate and blood in the urine. The condition can be readily treated with antibiotics, but recurs in about 60% of cases.
In a new study, the researchers tested the ability of cranberry extracts to inhibit the binding of certain, disease-causing strains of E. coli to cells taken from the lining of the urinary tract which would promote flushing of bacteria from the bladder into the urine stream, resulting in the prevention or reduction of symptoms.
This binding process is thought to be an early step in the initiation of an infection. During the course of the 5-year study, the team found that extracts containing compounds called "condensed tannins" or "proanthocyanidins," which are found in cranberries and blueberries, could inhibit the binding process.
The New England Journal of Medicine October 8, 1998; 339:1085-1086.
The majority of physicians and other health professionals believe there is a clear association between a diet high in fruits and vegetables and a low risk of chronic disease. Phytonutrients (naturally derived plant compounds), particularly antioxidants, are increasingly being shown to help optimize human health.
Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins (PACs) that can prevent the adhesion of certain of bacteria, including E. coli, associated with urinary tract infections to the urinary tact wall. The anti-adhesion properties of cranberry may also inhibit the bacteria associated with gum disease and stomach ulcers.
Recent scientific research shows that cranberries and cranberry products contain significant amounts of antioxidants and other phytonutrients that may help protect against heart disease, cancer and other diseases.
Cranberries have been shown to contain more antioxidant phenols than 19 commonly eaten fruits according to a study published in the November 19, 2001 edition of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. "These antioxidants may play a role in helping to prevent heart disease and certain cancers" according to the study's author Dr. Joe Vinson at the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Antioxidants are naturally manufactured by the body and/or are ingested primarily as components of fruits and vegetables. Cranberries can serve as a good source of supplemental antioxidants.
Bacterial Anti-adhesion and Antibiotic Resistance
Evidence indicates that natural components in cranberries act to inhibit the adhesion of infection-causing E. coli bacteria within the urinary tract. The compounds responsible have been identified by Howell et al. as proanthocyanidins (PACs), or condensed tannins. While many fruits contain similar compounds, thus far only the PACs of cranberries and blueberries, which are botanically related species, have been shown to exhibit this effect. More detailed work presented in April 2002 showed that of tests with cranberries, grapes, apples, tea, and chocolate, only cranberries exhibited this ability to block bacteria from sticking.
While cranberry is perhaps best known for its effect on urinary tract health, newer research indicates that it may act elsewhere in the body against other bacteria as well. The adhesion of the different types of bacteria that cause both stomach ulcers, and periodontal gum disease, have been shown to be inhibited in the presence of cranberry, and it is likely that others susceptible bacteria will be found as well.
It is likely that the anti-adhesion effect may have far reaching implications. Not only may regular consumption of cranberry products help maintain health, but in the process will reduce the number of infections in a given population, and thereby the doses of antibiotics which are needed. It is becoming increasingly clear that a reduction in general antibiotic use also reduces the likelihood of the bacteria becoming resistant to those very same antibiotics, which is a public health problem of global proportions.
Flavonoids have been shown to function as potent antioxidants both in vitro and in vivo and may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. Cranberries contain significant amounts of flavonoids and polyphenolic compounds that have been demonstrated to inhibit low density lipoprotein oxidation. Ongoing research continues to suggest that cranberries may offer a natural defense against atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis, in the simplest terms, is the accumulation of low density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad cholesterol", in arteries resulting in restricted blood flow. In advanced stages of the disease, blood flow may decrease severely or cease completely, resulting in angina (chest pain), a thrombosis (blood clot) and/or myocardial infarction (heart attack). Atherosclerosis is a primary cause of cardiovascular disease.
Cranberry Health Benefits
Protection against Urinary Tract Infection
Cranberries have been valued for their ability to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections for hundreds of years. In 1994, a placebo-controlled study of 153 elderly women was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that gave scientific credibility to claims of cranberries effectiveness in preventing urinary tract infection. In this study, the women given cranberry juice had less than half the number of urinary infections as the control group (only 42% as many, to be precise), who received a placebo imitation 'cranberry' drink. The daily dose of cranberry juice in this initial study was just 300 milliliters (about one and one-quarter cups). Since then, a number of other studies have also confirmed anecdotal tales of cranberry's ability to both treat and prevent urinary tract infections. In most of these later studies, subjects drank about 16 ounces (2 cups) of cranberry juice daily.
How does cranberry juice help prevent urinary tract infections? It acidifies the urine, contains an antibacterial agent called hippuric acid, and also contains other compounds that reduce the ability of E. coli bacteria to adhere to the walls of the urinary tract. Before an infection can start, a pathogen must first latch on to and then penetrate the mucosal surface of the urinary tract walls, but cranberries prevent such adherence, so the E. coli is washed away in the urine and voided. Since E. coli is pathogen responsible for 80-90% of urinary tract infections, the protection afforded by cranberries is quite significant. The most recent studies attempting to explain cranberries' protective effects on urinary tract health were presented at the Experimental Biology Conference held in April 2002. Amy Howell, research scientist at the Marucci Center for Blueberry Cranberry Research at Rutgers University and Jess Reed, professor of nutrition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, compared the proanthycyanins (active compounds) in cranberries to those found in grapes, apples, green tea and chocolate. They discovered that "the cranberry's proanthocyanidins are structurally different from the proanthocyanidins found in the other plant foods tested, which may explain why cranberry has unique bacterial anti-adhesion activity and helps to maintain urinary tract health."
8-Ounces Better than 4 to Prevent Bladder Infections
Cranberry's protective effects against bladder infections may be dose responsive, with 8-ounces of cranberry juice being twice as effective as 4-ounces, suggests preliminary research presented at the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America by Kalpana Gupta from the University of Washington.
Gupta reported the details of a very small trial in which three volunteers were given 27% cranberry juice cocktail. Urine samples, collected before and 4-6 hours after drinking the cranberry juice, were combined with human bladder cells and incubated with Escherichia coli (the most common cause of bladder infections). The number of bacteria able to adhere to the bladder cells (the first step a pathogen must achieve to be able to cause infection) was significantly reduced in the urine of all women who drank the cranberry juice cocktail, and the effect was doubled when the women drank eight ounces of cranberry rather than four ounces. Cranberry's protective effect is thought to be due to a specific type of tannin, found only in cranberries and blueberries, which interferes with projections on the bacterium, preventing it from sticking to the walls of the bladder and causing infection. However, once the bacteria have established a hold, it's best to seek medical advice. No evidence shows cranberry juice is able to cure an established bladder infection, which can lead to a more serious kidney infection. The researchers plan further studies in a larger group of women to investigate the optimal amount and frequency of cranberry juice consumption.(December 17, 2004)
Cranberries Combat Genital Herpes
Laboratory studies published in the October 2004 issue of the Journal of Science, Food and Agriculture have shown that a phytonutrient isolated from cranberries is effective against the herpes simplex virus (HSV-2), the cause of genital herpes. In a manner similar to the way the tannins in cranberries protect against bladder infection by preventing bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall, cranberries' antiviral compound, proanthocyanidin A-1, inhibits the attachment and penetration of the herpes virus. (December 17, 2004)
A Probiotic Berry for Gastrointestinal and Oral Health?
Not only kidney infections, but the majority of infectious diseases are initiated by the adhesion of pathogenic organisms to the tissues of the host. Cranberries ability to block this adhesion has been demonstrated not only against E. coli, the bacterium most commonly responsible for urinary tract infection, but also for a number of other common pathogens.
Delegates at the 2002 American Chemical Society meeting and Experimental Biology Conference were also informed about cranberries' ability to act as a natural probiotic, supporting the health-promoting bacteria that grow in the human gastrointestinal tract while killing off the bacteria that promote infections and foodborne illnesses.
One study presented by Leslie Plhak from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that whole frozen cranberries contained compounds able to inhibit the growth of common foodborne pathogens including Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli 0157:H7, but enhanced the growth of the beneficial bacterium Lactobacillus fermentum by as much as 25 times.
Another test tube study published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition in 2002 indicated that a constituent in cranberry juice prevents the bacterium responsible for most gastric ulcers, Helicobacter pylori, from adhering to gastric epithelial cells (the cells that form the lining of the stomach).
Also published in this same journal in 2002 was a study noting that compounds isolated from cranberry juice actually dissolved the aggregates formed by many oral bacteria and was effective in decreasing the salivary level of Streptococus mutans, the major cause of tooth decay. Among the other fruits tested, none had a similar effect except blueberries, whose protective action was much weaker than that of cranberries.
Prevention of Kidney Stone Formation
Cranberries contain quinic acid, an acidic compound that is unusual in that it is not broken down in the body but is excreted unchanged in the urine. The presence of quinic acid causes the urine to become just slightly acidic - a level of acidity that is, however, sufficient to prevent calcium and phosphate ions from joining to form insoluble stones. In patients who have had recurrent kidney stones, cranberry juice has been shown to reduce the amount of ionized calcium in their urine by more than 50%?a highly protective effect since in the U.S., 75-85% of kidney stones are composed of calcium salts.
In one recent study evaluating the effect of cranberry juice on kidney stone formation, study subjects were divided into two groups, one of which drank 2 cups of cranberry juice diluted with 6 cups water each day for 2 weeks, while the other group drank tap water for the same period. After a 2 week period in which neither group drank any cranberry juice, the groups were switched, so that those who had drunk cranberry juice drank only tap water, while those who had drunk tap water consumed 2 cups cranberry juice diluted with 6 cups tap water daily for an additional 2 weeks. In both groups, drinking cranberry juice was found to significantly and uniquely alter three key urinary risk factors for the better: oxalate and phosphate excretion decreased; citrate excretion increased; and the relative supersaturation of calcium oxalate was significantly lower.
In another trial that evaluated the influence of cranberry, plum and black currant juice on urinary stone risk factors, cranberry juice decreased the urinary pH (made the urine more acidic), and increased the excretion of oxalic acid and the relative supersaturation for uric acid. The researchers concluded that cranberry juice could be useful in the treatment of brushite (calcium) and struvite (non-calcium) stones as well as urinary tract infection.
After test tube research conducted at the University of Scranton demonstrated that cranberries? antioxidants could protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation, and animal research at three other universities provided evidence that cranberries can decrease levels of total cholesterol and LDL (low density or "bad" cholesterol), a human study has also corroborated these positive results.
The three month study funded by the U.S. Cranberry Institute was presented in March of 2003 at the 225th national meeting of the American Chemical Society. Researchers measured cholesterol levels in 19 subjects with high cholesterol after a fasting, baseline blood sampling, followed by monthly samplings. Ten of the subjects were given cranberry juice with artificial sweetener, while the other subjects drank cranberry juice with no added sugars. Like typical supermarket cranberry juices, the drinks all contained approximately 27% pure cranberry juice by volume. Each subject drank one 8-ounce glass of juice a day for the first month, then two glasses a day for the next month, and finally, three glasses a day during the third month of the study. Subjects were not monitored with respect to exercise, diet and alcohol consumption.
Although no changes occurred in their overall cholesterol levels, study subjects' HDL (good) cholesterol increased by an average of 10% after drinking three glasses of cranberry juice per day - an increase that, based on known epidemiological data on heart disease, corresponds to approximately a 40% reduction in heart disease risk.
Similarly, subjects' plasma antioxidant capacity, a measure of the total amount of antioxidants available in the body, was significantly increased - by as much as 121% after two or three servings of juice per day. Increased antioxidant levels are also associated with a decreased risk of heart disease.
While the mechanism by which cranberry juice changes cholesterol levels has not been clearly established, the researchers have theorized that the effect is due to the fruit's high levels of polyphenols, a type of potent antioxidant.
Studies conducted at the University of Scranton, PA, and funded by the Cranberry Institute, a trade association for cranberry growers in the US and Canada, have revealed cranberries to be phytochemical powerhouses packed with five times the antioxidant content of broccoli. When compared to 19 other common fruits, cranberries were found to contain the highest level of antioxidant phenols.
Other studies presented at the 223rd national meeting of the American Chemical Society in April 2002 also showed that cranberries have among the highest levels of phenols of commonly consumed fruits. One study presented at the meetings by biochemist Yuegang Zuo from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth looked at 20 different fruit juices and found that cranberry juice had the most phenols and the highest radical scavenging capacity of all of them.
The most recent study to compare levels of phenolic compounds in common fruits, which was conducted at Cornell University and published in the December 2002 issue of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry also confirmed that cranberries had the highest phenolic content of the fruits studied. Cranberries were followed in descending order by apple, red grape, strawberry, pineapple, banana, peach, lemon, orange, pear and grapefruit.
Also at the April 2002 national meeting of the American Chemical Society, Catherine Neto, assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, presented research on several newly discovered compounds in cranberries that were toxic to a variety of cancer tumor cell lines, including lung, cervical, prostate, breast and leukemia cancer cells. The Cornell study mentioned above that confirmed cranberries as having the highest levels of antioxidants among common fruits also found that cranberries had the strongest ability to inhibit the proliferation of human liver cancer cells.
For cancer prevention, enjoy whole cranberries, not just cranberry juice. Cranberry presscake (the material remaining after squeezing juice from the berries), when fed to mice bearing human breast cancer cells, has previously been shown to decrease the growth and metastasis of tumors. A new study published in the June 2004 issue of the Journal of Nutrition suggests compounds in whole cranberries also inhibit prostate, skin, lung and brain cancer cells as well.
Androgen-dependent prostate cancer cells were inhibited the most (just 10 mg of a warm water extract of cranberry presscake inhibited their growth by 50%). With androgen-independent prostate cancer cells and estrogen-independent breast cancer cells, a larger amount was needed but produced the same beneficial effect (250 mg of cranberry presscake extract inhibited their growth by 50%). Researchers concluded that the active compounds in whole cranberry prevent cancer by blocking cell cycle progression and inducing cells to undergo apoptosis (programmed cell death). (October 19, 2004)
Aiding in Recovery from Stroke
In laboratory studies using rat brain cells exposed to simulated stroke conditions, a concentrated cranberry extract reduced the death of brain cells by half in comparison to cells that did not receive the extract, scientists reported in 2003 at the 226th meeting of the American Chemical Society. The researchers, led by Professor Catherine Neto from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, believe their findings suggest that cranberry juice could aid the recovery of stroke patients, particularly in the earliest stages, when the most severe damage occurs. The researchers think that although cranberry juice may not prevent a stroke from occurring initially, it may reduce the severity of the stroke and thus the resulting symptoms. Neto was quoted as saying that "although both animal and human studies are needed to confirm these initial findings, this study offers a compelling reason for recent stroke victims and those at risk for stroke to consume cranberries." Until those studies are done, however, it is unclear what amount of cranberries or cranberry juice people should eat or drink to have an optimal effect against stroke.
Protection against Macular Degeneration
Your mother may have told you carrots would keep your eyes bright as a child, but as an adult, it looks like fruit is even more important for keeping your sight. Data reported in a study published in the June 2004 issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology indicates that eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, by 36%, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily.
In this study, which involved 77,562 women and 40,866 men, researchers evaluated the effect of study participants' consumption of fruits; vegetables; the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E; and carotenoids on the development of early ARMD or neovascular ARM, a more severe form of the illness associated with vision loss. Food intake information was collected periodically for up to 18 years for women and 12 years for men. While, surprisingly, intakes of vegetables, antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids were not strongly related to incidence of either form of ARM, fruit intake was definitely protective against the severe form of this vision-destroying disease. Three servings of fruit may sound like a lot to eat each day, but by simply tossing a banana into your morning smoothie or slicing it over your cereal, topping off a cup of yogurt or green salad with a half cup of cranberries,and snacking on an apple, plum, nectarine or pear, you've reached this goal. (July 10, 2004)
A glossy, scarlet red, very tart berry, the cranberry belongs to the same genus as the blueberry, Vaccinium. Like blueberries, cranberries can still be found growing as wild shrubs in northern Europe, northern Asia, and North America. When cultivated, however, cranberries are grown on low trailing vines atop great sandy bogs.
Cranberries have also been called "bounceberries," because ripe ones bounce, and "craneberries," a poetic allusion to the fact that their pale pink blossoms look a bit like the heads of the cranes that frequent cranberry bogs. The variety cultivated commercially in the northern United States and southern Canada, the American Cranberry, produces a larger berry than either the Southern cranberry, a wild species that is native to the mountains of the eastern United States, or the European variety.
The History of Cranberries
The cranberry derived it's name from German and Dutch settlers, who called it "crane berry". They were called this, as the settlers thought that when the vines bloomed in late Spring and the flower's light pink petals twisted back, they had a resemblance to the head and bill of a crane. Gradually, over time, the name has been shortened to cranberry.
Cranberries have a long history as part of our diet. They are only one of three types of fruit native to North America and was a staple fruit of Native Americans. It was these Native Americans who invented cranberry sauce sweetened with maple sugar and honey. Cranberries were also an important ingredient in pemmican, pounded dried meat and fat food which would last forever. When the Europeans arrived, they quickly adopted this unique food as part of their diet.
Supposedly the Pilgrims dined on cranberry dishes at the very first Thanksgiving in 1612. The colonist's were not aware of the high Vitamin C content found in the berries, but cranberries became a favorite among New England sailors, as those who eat the bright red berries did not develop scurvy.
Cranberries are found in the sandy, cool temperature bogs of Massachusetts and New Jersey. Cranberries are grown commercially in these States as well as Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin.