Five Reasons to Eat More Cranberries

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Cranberries aren't just a staple of Thanksgiving dinners and holiday feasts for their beautiful red color and tart deliciousness. Their polyphenols and other bioactive components also make them a potent antiviral, antibacterial and whole body health powerhouse

Cranberries are a star of holiday dinners, often making an appearance on Thanksgiving Day. Yet there's more to them than their gorgeous deep red color and tangy taste that makes them deserving of becoming a regular fixture on your family's winter table and in your year-round diet.

Cranberries are a nutritional powerhouse. One cup offers about 14 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C and is rich in vitamins A, E, K and B complex.[i] In a study of 20 common fruits, cranberries surfaced as the one with the highest level of antioxidants, with red grapes following distantly by.[ii]

Here are five reasons why this tart fruit is an excellent choice for wellness, positively influencing a variety of health conditions from infections to cancer.[iii]

1. Preventing UTI Recurrence

Cranberry products have been popularly used to prevent urinary tract infection (UTI), a condition with extreme prevalence.[iv] Recurring UTIs are a challenge for many despite conventional treatment with antibiotics, making cranberry a sensible choice to help prevent recurrence.

In a study where women with a history of recurrent UTIs took one capsule of 200 mg concentrated cranberry extract twice daily for 12 weeks, none experienced a UTI. Two years later, eight of the women were still taking the cranberry extract, and none of them had experienced a UTI.

"The cranberry preparation with a high phenolic content may completely prevent UTIs in women" prone to recurrent infections, the researchers concluded.[v] Similarly, a novel concentrated cranberry liquid blend emerged as safe and tolerable in pre- and post-menopausal women with a history of UTIs.[vi] It also was effective in reducing the incidence of recurrent UTIs and increased quality of life in the women.

Cranberry extract combined with D-mannose also proved promising in acute UTI episodes, with a beneficial effect on sensitivity to antibiotics.[vii]

2. High Antioxidant Content

A study found cranberries to have the highest antioxidant activity in a range of fruits studied, including pineapples, lemons and grapefruits.[viii] Research from 2005 concluded that polyphenols found in cranberries may reduce age-related decline in learning, memory, motor performance as well as nerve signaling.

The phytochemicals in cranberries can offer these various benefits, including restoring the brain's ability to produce a neuroprotective response to stress.[ix]

3. Anticancer Action

Natural polyphenols in a diet rich in fruits and vegetables have been shown in scientific evidence to help lower the risk of certain cancers.[x] Daily consumption of a powdered cranberry supplement was found to help lower serum prostate specific antigen (PSA) in prostate cancer patients, with the whole fruit believed to have constituents that may regulate cancer gene expression.[xi]

In a 2015 study, researchers isolated flavonoids in cranberries to their highest level of purity and tested their effect in vitro against ovarian cancer cells.[xii] The flavonoids induced the death of cancer cells and reduced enzymatic activity, arresting the development of new cancer cells.

4. Potent Antiviral Properties

A 2013 study rated 35 varieties of blueberry against bilberry, black currant and cranberry in their effectiveness against the influenza virus.[xiii] With antiviral effects notably different between berry species, bilberry, cranberry and black currant had the greatest antiviral properties. Polyphenols were confirmed to be partly responsible for berries' antiviral effects.

Scientists in an earlier study tested a commercially available cranberry juice cocktail against equivalent orange and grapefruit juice drinks.[xiv] They found that while orange and grapefruit slowed the infectivity of a virus by 25% to 35%, cranberry juice stopped it completely.

5. Cardiovascular Benefits

Cranberry juice offers polyphenolic compounds that could improve endothelial function and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.[xv]

In a study, chronic intake of cranberry juice decreased carotid femoral pulse wave velocity, a relevant measure of arterial stiffness.[xvi] The findings demonstrated that cranberry juice can enhance vascular function in patients with coronary artery disease.

Separate findings showed that cranberry juice can improve a number of cardiovascular risk factors, including circulating triglycerides, C-reactive protein, glucose, insulin resistance and diastolic blood pressure.[xvii]

Learn more about the amazing properties of this celebrated berry via the compilation of cranberry research on the database.

[ii] Vinson J et al "Phenol Antioxidant Quantity and Quality in Foods:  Fruits" J Agric Food Chem. 2001; 49(11):5315-5321.

[v] Bailey D et al "Can a concentrated cranberry extract prevent recurrent urinary tract infections in women? A pilot study" Phytomedicine. 2007 Apr;14(4):237-41. Epub 2007 Feb 12.

[viii] Sun J et al "Antioxidant and antiproliferative activities of common fruits" J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Dec 4;50(25):7449-54.

[x] Zhou Y et al "Natural Polyphenols for Prevention and Treatment of Cancer" Nutrients. 2016 Aug; 8(8): 515. Epub 2016 Aug 22.

[xi] Student V et al "Cranberry intervention in patients with prostate cancer prior to radical prostatectomy. Clinical, pathological and laboratory findings" Biomed Pap Med Fac Univ Palacky Olomouc Czech Repub. 2016 Nov 10. Epub 2016 Aug 10.

[xiii] Sekizawa H et al "Relationship between polyphenol content and anti-influenza viral effects of berries" J Sci Food Agric. 2013 Jul ;93(9):2239-41. Epub 2013 Jan 28.

[xiv] Lipson S et al "Antiviral effects on bacteriophages and rotavirus by cranberry juice" Phytomedicine. 2007 Jan;14(1):23-30. Epub 2006 Nov 29.

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