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Fresh cranberriesA cousin of the blueberry, this very tart, bright red berry can still be found growing wild as a shrub, but when cultivated, is grown on low trailing vines in great sandy bogs. The American cranberry, the variety most cultivated in the northern United States and southern Canada, produces a larger berry than the wild cranberry or the European variety.

Cranberries have long been valued for their ability to help prevent and treat urinary tract infections. Now, recent studies suggest that this native American berry may also promote gastrointestinal and oral health, prevent the formation of kidney stones, lower LDL and raise HDL (good) cholesterol, aid in recovery from stroke, and even help prevent cancer.

Fresh cranberries, which contain the highest levels of beneficial nutrients, are at their peak from October through December, just in time to add their festive hue, tart tangy flavor and numerous health protective effects to your holiday meals. When cranberries" short fresh season is past, rely on cranberry juice and dried or frozen cranberries to help make every day throughout the year a holiday from disease.

This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Cranberries provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Cranberries can be found in theFood Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Cranberries, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.

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.

Studies attempting to explain cranberries" protective effects on urinary tract health were presented at the Experimental Biology Conference held in 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 than 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 *****tail. 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 *****tail, 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.

Cranberry Juice Shows Promise as Alternative to Antibiotics

New research has greatly increased our understanding of how cranberry juice prevents urinary tract and kidney infections.

A series of studies led by Terri Camesano from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the latest of which were presented September 19, 2006 at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco, show that compounds in cranberry juice have the capacity to actually change E. colibacteria-even strains that have become resistant to conventional treatment-in ways that render them unable to initiate an infection. E. coli, a class of microorganisms responsible for a wide variety of human illnesses ranging from urinary tract and kidney infections to gastroenteritis to tooth decay, are changed in several ways by a group of tannins (called proanthocyanidins) found primarily in cranberries. Each one of these changes can prevent the bacteria from adhering to cells in the body, a necessary first step in any infection.

Cranberry proanthocyanidins:

* Alter E. coli"s cell membranes
* Prevent the bacteria from making contact with cells or attaching to them even if they somehow manage to get close enough
* Change the shape of E.coli from rods to spheres
* Disrupt bacterial communication

Alter E. coli Cell Membranes

In research published February 2006 in Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Camesano showed that exposure to cranberry juice causes tiny tendrils (known as fimbriae) on the surface of the type of E. coli bacteria responsible for the most serious types of urinary tract infections to become compressed. Since its fimbriae are what allow the bacteria to bind tightly to the lining of the urinary tract, compressing them greatly reduces E. coli"s ability to remain in place long enough to launch an infection.

Prevent E. coli from Making Contact

In research published in August 2006 in Colloids and Surfaces, B. Biointerfaces Camesano found that chemical changes caused by cranberry juice also create an energy barrier that prevents the bacteria from getting close enough to the urinary tract lining to try to adhere in the first place.

Change E. coli"s Shape and Activity

Camesano"s latest work reveals that cranberry juice can transform E. coli in even more radical ways, which have never before been observed. When the bacteria were grown in solutions containing various concentrations of either cranberry juice or cranberry tannins, E. coli, which is normally a gram-negative rod-shaped bacterium, became spherical and started behaving like gram-positive bacteria. Since gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria differ primarily in the structure of their cell membranes, these results suggest that cranberry tannins actually alter E. coli"s membrane.

The research Camesano presented at the ACS meeting also included yet another, more preliminary finding: when exposed to cranberry juice, E. coli appear to lose their ability to secrete indole, a molecule involved in a form of bacterial communication called quorum sensing, which is used by E. coli to determine when sufficient bacteria are present at a location to stage a successful infection attack.

"We are beginning to get a picture of cranberry juice and, in particular, the tannins found in cranberries, as potentially potent antibacterial agents," Camesano said. "These results are surprising and intriguing, particularly given the increasing concern about the growing resistance of certain disease-causing bacteria to antibiotics." For most of these effects, the higher the concentration of either cranberry juice or tannins, the greater their impact on E. coli, suggesting that whole cranberry products and juice that has not been highly diluted may have the greatest health effects.

Cranberries" Potent Anti-Viral Activity

Long recognized as an effective treatment for urinary tract infections, cranberry juice"s benefits have now been shown to also extend to protection against viruses.

When researchers exposed three diverse viral species (the bacteriophages T2 and T4 of E. coli C and B, respectively, and the simian enteric virus, rotavirus SA-11) to commercially available cranberry juice (Ocean Spray), all were completely neutralized.

Cranberry juice"s anti-viral action was rapid, dose-dependent (a 20% juice suspension was needed to stop simian rotovirus from binding to the surface of cells) and unaffected by temperature (T4 was completely inactivated at four or 23 degrees Celsius, which is unusual since lower temperature is typically associated with lesser viral "kill"). While not nearly as potent as cranberry juice, orange and grapefruit juices reduced the viral infectivity of T2 and T4 to 25-35% of the control, respectively.Phytomedicine. 2007 Jan;14(1):23-30.

Cranberries Combat Herpes Virus

Laboratory studies published in the October 2004 issue of theJournal 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.While this is promising, we look forward to studies involving human subject to confirm these findings.

A Pro-biotic 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 gastro-intestinal 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 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 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 that that of cranberries.

Further lab studies, published in Caries Research support cranberries" ability to inhibit prevent cavities.

Dr Hyun Hoo, an oral biologist at the University of Rochester Medial Center in New York, studied the effects of cranberry juice on the processes involved in the development of biofilms by S. mutans.

Results showed that the cranberry juice interfered with S. mutans" ability to stick to the surface of the "tooth," thus preventing the development of cavities in a way similar to cranberry"s action in preventing urinary tract infections, in which cranberry juice inhibits the adhesion of pathogens in the urinary tract. One warning here: don"t consume large quantities of sugar-laden cranberry juice or cranberry sauce to protect your teeth; the sugar in these products is likely to cause not prevent decay. Choose unsweetened organic cranberry juice. Boosts Effectiveness of Drugs against H. Pylori Drinking cranberry juice significantly boosts eradication ofHelicobacter pylori (the bacterium responsible for ulcers and many digestive complaints) in women receiving triple therapy with the antibiotics omeprazole, amoxicillin and clarithromycin (OAC), the gold standard drug treatment for this hard-to-eliminate pathogen. 889 patients on OAC were randomized to 1 of 3 groups. Group 1 received OAC + 250 mL (8.5 ounces) of cranberry juice for 1 week, followed by cranberry juice alone for 2 more weeks. Group 2 followed the same regimen but received a placebo-cranberry beverage, and Group 3 only took OAC. While the addition of cranberry juice did not appear to improve H. pylori eradication in men, among the women, cranberry juice raised the rate of H. pylori elimination from 82.5% to 95.2%. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007 Jun;51(6):746-51.

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 blackcurrant 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.

Beneficial Actions on Cholesterol

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 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.

New research appears to be confirming this theory. Pterostilbene (pronounced TARE-oh-STILL-bean), a powerful antioxidant compound found in cranberries, which is already known to fight cancer, may also help lower cholesterol.

In an experimental study, scientists at the USDA Agricultural Research Service compared the cholesterol-lowering effects of pterostilbene to those of ciprofibrate, a lipid-lowering drug, and resveratrol, an antioxidant found in grapes with a chemical structure similar to pterostilbene that has been shown to help fight cancer and heart disease.

They based their comparison on each compound"s ability to activate PPAR-alpha (short for peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha). The PPARs are a family of receptors on cell membranes that are involved in the absorption of compounds into cells for use in energy production. PPAR-alpha is crucial for the metabolism of lipids, including cholesterol.

Pterostilbene was as effective as ciprofibrate and outperformed resveratrol in activating PPAR-alpha. The take away message: turn up your cholesterol burning machinery by eating more cranberries. (Grapes and blueberries are also good sources of pterostilbene.)

Increases Cardio-Protective HDL Cholesterol

Having low blood levels of "good" HDL cholesterol has long been recognized as a factor that increases risk of cardiovascular disease, but something as simple as enjoying a daily 8-ounce glass of low-calorie cranberry juice may significantly increase blood levels of cardioprotective HDL cholesterol, suggests a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition (Ruel G., Omperleau S, et al.)

In this trial, 30 abdominally obese men, averaging 51 years in age, drank increasing amounts (4 ounces, 8 ounces and 12 ounces daily) of low-calorie cranberry juice during three successive 4-week periods.

While no changes in the men"s HDL were noted after drinking 4 ounces of cranberry juice each day, a large increase (+8.6%) in circulating levels of HDL was noted after the men drank 8-ounces of cranberry juice daily, an effect that leveled out (+8.1%) during the final 12-ounce phase of the study.

After drinking 8 ounces of cranberry juice daily, the men"s triglyceride levels also dropped, while their levels of total and LDL cholesterol remained unchanged, which means that overall, their overall lipid profile significantly improved.

The researchers chose abdominally obese men because, in other research (Farnier M, Garnier P, et al., Int J Clin Pract), abdominal obesity, high triglycerides and being male, have been strongly linked to low HDL and cardiovascular disease.

Abdominal obesity, high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol are also key symptoms of the metabolic syndrome, a condition which greatly increases one"s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And type 2 diabetes is well known to be a primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which remains the leading cause of death not only in the U.S., but throughout the developed world. So, the subjects in this study were men whose health was greatly at risk. Isn"t it wonderful that something as simple, affordable and delicious as a daily 8-ounce glass of cranberry juice offers such potential beneficial impact on our health? Instead of buying the "low-calorie" cranberry juice, which is usually sweetened with aspartame or comparable chemicals, look for unsweetened cranberry juice concentrate. It will be less expensive and healthier to simply add a little concentrate to a glass of water, then sweeten to taste with honey or stevia.
Posted on Saturday, November 07 @ 15:18:55 EST by administrator
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