Cranberry is a fruit that can be useful in preventing bacterial infections, managing cholesterol, wound healing and with cancer. The Native American peoples were well aware of the health promoting and healing properties of the cranberry fruit which is indigenous to the North American region. Dr. Amy B. Howell, an associate research scientist at the Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ wrote an article in the recent issue of the Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine (DIFM) newsletter entitled, “Health Benefits of Cranberries-It’s not just UTI’s anymore!” where she discussed this subject. She also lectured on this same topic at the 2011 Food and Nutrition Conference Expo (FNCE) DIFM breakfast meeting. And of course, as she further explains, the potent phytochemicals found in the fruit are responsible for it’s health promoting properties.
According to Dr. Amy Howell, the phytochemical known as polyphenolic proanthocyanidin (PACs) is responsible for preventing bacterial adhesions that lead to UTI’s, stomach ulcers and oral health issues. The PACs found in cranberry are unique to those found in foods like grapes and chocolate because of its’ distinct type of chemical linkage that disrupts the bacterial adhesion process which is the first step towards infection. As such, these PACs work differently from antibiotics as they do not kill bacteria and therefore bacteria is not apt to form resistance against these chemicals. Regarding dental health, even advanced cases of periodontal disease benefitted from cranberry extract per Canadian researchers as reported by Dr. Howell. Apparently cranberry has a powerful effect on bone formation in periodontal disease. The combination of phytochemicals found in cranberries may prevent cardiovascular disease (CDV). In one study noted in Dr. Howell’s works, participants consuming a little over 8oz. of a low-calorie cranberry drink containing 27% of pure cranberry juice over a 12 week period showed a significant increase of high density lipoprotein levels (HDL) in overweight men. Higher HDL levels are typically associated with reduced risk of CVD. Cranberry is also suspected to exhibit anti-carcinogenic properties as some research has suggested a reduction of tumor growth and protection against cancer.
To benefit from the healing nature of cranberries, Dr. Howell makes the following recommendations regarding cranberry products:
1.) When seeking cranberry supplements, look for those made with whole cranberries and carry the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) or Good Manufacturing Process(GMP) stamp of approval on the packaging.
2.) Cranberry drinks should containing at least 25% of 100% cranberry juice.
3.) Approximately 1 cup/day of sugar sweetened or a low calorie cranberry cocktail drink is beneficial.
4.) 2oz. of 100% pure cranberry juice added to other juices to improve taste can be used as an alternative to cranberry juice drinks.
Howell, Amy B. "Health Benefits of Cranberries-It's Not Just about UTI's Anymore!" Food and Nutrition Conference Expo Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine Breakfast. San Diego Convention Center, San Diego. 26 Sept. 2011. Lecture.
Howell, Amy B. "Health Benefits of Cranberries-It's Not Just UTI's Anymore." Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine 14 (Sept. 2012): 49-51. Print.