November 19, 2013
Research Review Touts Health Benefits Of Holiday Favorite Cranberries
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
While you’re enjoying the turkey and stuffing this Thanksgiving, you might want to grab an extra helping of cranberry sauce, according to new research highlighting the nutritional quality and health benefits of the perennial holiday favorite.
The study, which appears in the journal Advances in Nutrition, concludes that the bioactive compounds contained in cranberries not only help improve urinary tract health, but could also improve cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health, as well as other metabolic benefits.
The research review was crafted by a group of 10 cranberry and health experts, including scientists and medical professionals from Tufts University, Pennsylvania State University, Boston University, Rutgers University, the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, the University of East Anglia in the UK and Heinrich-Heine-University in Germany. They featured over 150 previously published studies to create what is being called the most current and in-depth analysis of cranberry nutrition and the positive effects the fruit can have on human health.
“Hundreds of studies show that the bioactive compounds found in cranberries improve health,” stated lead author Dr. Jeffrey Blumberg, Director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory and Professor in the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. “For example, the polyphenols found in cranberries have been shown to promote a healthy urinary tract and exert protective benefits for cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions.”
What separates cranberries from other types of fruits and berries is the fact that it possesses A-type proanthocyanidins instead of B-type proanthocyanidins. The study authors explain that A-type proanthocyanidins appear to possess an anti-adhesion benefit that helps protect against urinary tract infections (UTI), a condition which affects over 15 million American women annually, while also reducing the recurrence rate.
Furthermore, the researchers cite data suggesting that eating cranberries can improve a person’s blood cholesterol levels and lower his or her blood pressure, inflammation and oxidative stress – thus improving his or her overall heart health. Cranberries have also been shown to support endothelial function and reduce arterial stiffness, they added. When combined, those properties could help improve the overall well-being of blood vessels, thus slowing the progression of atherogenesis and plaque formation, potential causes of strokes and heart attacks.
Due to their tart taste, many people add sugar to cranberries to make them more palatable, but even in these circumstances the study authors claim that the fruit typically has no more sugar than unsweetened fruit juices or other dried fruit products. They also have the added bonus of being a good source of health-promoting polyphenols, and while they are a Thanksgiving favorite, the research team promotes their consumption year round.
“While we look forward to more research to better understand how cranberries affect our well-being and longevity, we know that including cranberries and cranberry products in a healthy diet is a great way to increase fruit intake,” Dr. Blumberg noted. The research was supported by the Cranberry Institute, a non-profit agency dedicated to supporting research about the health benefits of the agricultural product.