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The Health Benefits Of Cranberries

Cranberries can protect the cardiovascular system and the urinary tract from diseases such as bladder infections. Cranberries are rich in antioxidants and other valuable ingredients. They fight inflammation, protect the blood vessels from oxidative stress and lower the cholesterol level.

Antioxidants in cranberries for the heart and urinary tract

Cranberries (cranberries or cranberries) have a beneficial effect on the urinary tract and the cardiovascular system. They contain type A proanthocyanidins. These are particularly valuable, highly effective antioxidants that protect the human organism from damage caused by free radicals from food and the environment. Most other fruits often contain the less potent B-proanthocyanidins.

The recommendation to use cranberry juice against urinary tract infections and bladder infections is well known. Nevertheless, there are only a few studies that clearly prove the effect of cranberries against cystitis, which is due to the fact that different amounts of cranberries or different preparation forms (sometimes juice, sometimes powder, sometimes capsules) were used in each study. One can therefore hardly speak of comparable results.

Cranberries prevent bladder infections

Nevertheless, there are studies that show that cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) can prevent recurring cystitis in particular. For example, a meta-analysis of various studies by scientists at the Greek University of the Aegean found that cranberries can prevent recurring bladder and kidney problems.

The researchers suspect that cranberries prevent pathogens from settling on the inner wall of the bladder. At the same time, they should stop inflammatory processes in the body and thus prevent the germs from multiplying.

In conventional medicine, urinary tract infections are usually treated with antibiotics. This procedure damages the health of the patient in the long run since the cause is not changed (weakened immune system, mucous membranes with little resistance, dysbiosis, etc.), but only the recurring bacteria are combated.

It is not uncommon for women to get rid of their bladder infection after antibiotic therapy, only to suffer from a vaginal thrush – a typical consequence of antibiotic treatment. No sooner has the vaginal thrush been fought off with anti-fungal agents than the next bladder infection is just around the corner.

Cranberries are effective against cystitis pathogens

Escherichia coli is the name of a strain of bacteria that is primarily found in the intestines, where it is mostly harmless. However, if these bacteria get into the urinary tract and the immune system is unable to eliminate them, they can cause bladder infections.

According to US researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, A-proanthocyanidins are particularly effective at fighting E. coli bacteria. They prevent them from entering body cells. They can thus make an important contribution to the prevention of cystitis.

The scientists found that almost 95 percent of the proanthocyanidins in cranberries are A-type, compared to just 15 percent in apples.

D-Mannose against bladder infections

Another way to prevent bladder infections is D-Mannose. This is a type of sugar that is not metabolized but is excreted unchanged in the urine.

Cranberries protect the heart

Of course, not only the urinary tract benefits from the anti-inflammatory properties of cranberries. Cranberries can also most likely reduce cardiovascular risk, according to the results of a scientific study by Korean nutrition experts.

Cranberries lower inflammation levels

For example, rats fed cranberry powder in their diet for six weeks had higher levels of “good” HDL cholesterol in their blood and lower levels of inflammation than their peers, even though they were all fed diets that were unhealthy for the heart.

While elevated HDL levels are considered beneficial, elevated LDL cholesterol levels combined with elevated levels of inflammation are thought to be responsible for cardiovascular disease.

Cranberries protect blood vessels and reduce the risk of arteriosclerosis

In a randomized, controlled, double-blind study published in March 2022, participants in healthy men were examined on how the daily consumption of freeze-dried cranberry powder affects the cardiovascular system. The men took 9 g of cranberry powder (made from whole cranberries, not an extract) dissolved in water (equivalent to 100 g of fresh cranberries with a polyphenol content of 525 mg) or a placebo powder once a day for 1 month.

Although blood pressure, blood fat, and blood sugar levels remained unchanged, a significantly improved vascular function could be measured in the cranberry group at the end of the study. Flow-mediated vasodilation increased significantly.

Flow-mediated vasodilation (FMD) is determined using high-resolution ultrasound. If the FMD is impaired, this indicates a functional disorder of the blood vessels, which in turn is considered the starting signal for the development of arteriosclerosis. If the FMD is disturbed, the blood vessel walls can no longer produce sufficient nitrogen monoxide (NO). NO expands/relaxes (dilates) the blood vessels, which lowers blood pressure and promotes blood circulation.

The better the FMD value, the healthier the blood vessels and the lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Cranberries – various uses

The results of various studies therefore also show that cranberries – in whatever form and dose – have positive effects on, among other things, blood pressure, sugar metabolism, stomach health, inflammation levels, and vascular function, that they can be used in cancer prevention and – as an ingredient in mouthwash – even tackle caries bacteria (as shown in a 2004 Israeli study.

Cranberries against the gastric germ Helicobacter pylori

A 2005 Chinese study found significant results in fighting Helicobacter pylori when subjects drank 8 ounces of cranberry juice twice a day for 90 days. Helicobacter pylori are the bacterium that is said to be responsible for numerous stomach problems, including stomach ulcers and stomach cancer.

Cranberries taste tart and sour

Cranberries may look delicious, but they taste very tart and sour and are therefore not very suitable for direct consumption. They can cause gastrointestinal upset.

It is precisely the tart taste of cranberries that leads to many cranberry products being sold sweetened. Therefore, when buying, make sure that you buy unsweetened products. If necessary, you can still sweeten it yourself and choose a healthy sweetener.

Cranberries – as a fruit, juice, tablet, or powder

It is still unclear whether cranberries should be consumed as a fruit or better as juice or even better in tablet or powder form. There is also still a lack of clarity regarding the required dose. Nevertheless, one can orientate oneself to the dosages from the studies that have been successful so far.

However, in a 2006 study published in the World Journal of Urology, drinking cranberry juice alone had a clear repellent effect on the bacteria that cause cystitis – after drinking 750 once ml of cranberry juice for dinner. One could therefore assume a therapeutic and preventive effect if e.g. B. drinking 8 ounces of cranberry juice twice a day for a few weeks.

A 2010 French study showed that cranberry powder could protect against cystitis when it contained 72 mg of proanthocyanidins per daily dose, so it was standardized to this proanthocyanidin content.

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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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