5 October 2014

Healthier hearts with cranberry juice

Recent studies show that cranberry juice, taken daily, may improve blood sugar levels and cholesterol composition. 

A study that asked overweight but otherwise healthy individuals to drink two glasses (15.2 oz, or 450ml) of a cranberry-based beverage every day for two weeks found that the volunteers showed healthier blood sugar levels without spikes or dips, changes often attributed to cravings or fatigue. The health benefits were sustained if they continued drinking two glasses on a regular basis. 

After eight weeks of daily cranberry beverage consumption, individuals had increased levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which helps maintain artery health by sweeping up bad cholesterol. [1]
Participants also showed better blood vessel function and less oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can cause inflammation, a condition often linked to heart disease, obesity, diabetes and arthritis. [2]
Researchers also noted that the cranberry beverage helped maintain blood sugar levels within normal range over the eight week study.

“We have long known the cranberry’s positive impact on one’s health and wellbeing, but we’re just beginning to uncover the full range of its natural power,” said Christina Khoo, Director of Research Sciences at Ocean Spray, which is known for its cranberry beverages*. “From maintaining healthy blood lipids to decreasing inflammation, more new evidence continues to emerge on the benefits of cranberries.”

Extracts of cranberry containing proanthocyanidins (PACs) also have potential for improving health. 

Anti-cancer: Pre-clinical research indicates that PACs found in cranberries may have properties that limit cancer cell growth. While further studies are warranted, the latest findings suggest great potential for the cranberry’s anticancer activity. [3] 

Prebiotics: Cranberries have been linked with prebiotic qualities, boosting the number of good bacteria living in the gut. That’s according to a team out who found that when cranberry extract rich in PACs was left overnight with a mixture of bacteria commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract together and human colon cancer cells, the PACs promoted the good bacteria’s activity against the colon cancer cells. [4] 

Heart protection: To explore how the natural compounds in cranberries can protect the body against harmful substances, a team of scientists soaked heart muscle cells in cranberry extract for six hours. The result? The cranberry extract lowered the amount of tissue-damaging enzymes, called MMPs, which have been linked to heart disease, tumour growth and arthritis.[5]

“While additional studies are warranted to truly understand the role of PACs in cell health and heart protection and in boosting the activity of good gut bacteria, initial research yields promising indications that cranberry PACs in the form of an extract can be leveraged as an effective way to improve whole body health,” said Khoo.

[1] Mathison, B.D., Kimble, L.L., McKay, D.C., Chen, C., Blumberg, J.B., Kaspar, K.L., Khoo, C. and Chew, B.C., (2014) Chronic consumption of a high polyphenol content cranberry beverage improved glucoregulation and HDL cholesterol in healthy but overweight humans. Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEBJ). 28, 831.10

[2] Kimble, L.L., Mathison, B.D., McKay, D.L., Chen, C., Blumberg, J.B., Kaspar, K.L., Khoo, C. and Chew, B.P., (2014) Chronic consumption of a high polyphenol cranberry beverage protects against inflammation and improves endothelial function in healthy but overweight humans. FASEBJ. 28, 830.26

[3] Mansouri, R.A., Khoo, C. and Percival, S.S., (2014) Cranberry extract initiates apoptosis in HL-60 cell line through intrinsic apoptotic pathway. FASEBJ. 28, 644.9

[4] Nyugen, T., Kimble, L.L., Mathison, B.D. and Chew, B.P., (2014) Cranberry extract promotes anti-inflammatory activity of lactobacillus plantarum on HT-29 human colon cancer cells. FASEBJ. 28, 647.35

[5] Hurta, R., Thomas, A,. Kim, J., Patel, K. and Neto, C., (2014) Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) extract inhibits matrix metalloproteinase expression in aortic smooth muscle cells by affecting key cell signaling pathways. FASEBJ. 28, 934.1 

*Image from Ocean Spray

*Some formulations of Ocean Spray cranberry juice may contain apple juice or other fruits.