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Best of Cranberry Heart Therapy

January 12, 2011 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Have you ever flipped through cable TV late at night and stopped at one of the stations that regularly broadcasts documentaries about UFOs or other supernatural phenomena? It doesn’t much matter whether you believe in the subject matter or not. What’s interesting about the programs is that they’ll often feature noted professors, scholars and even theologians who offer rather involved theories about how and why extraterrestrials or extra-sensory powers could be plausible. These intricate explanations often call upon historical records and even scientific principles to bolster credibility. Naturally there are always opposing experts who can and do dispute these controversial points of view. However the hashing out of information and/or the debate along the way can be rather fascinating.

There was a recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry which proposed that a group of chemicals found in cranberries called oligomeric procyanidins (OPCs) were most likely responsible for this fruit’s suspected cardioprotective properties. The basis for this assertion comes from research conducted at the Queen Mary University of London. There, a group of scientists led by Dr. Roger Corder tested the effects of cranberry extracts vs. apple, cocoa, green tea and red wine extracts on endothelial cells, which normally line the innermost part of blood vessels. They discovered that cranberry OPCs were most effective at inhibiting a vasoconstricting substance known as endothelin-1. If this laboratory study is indicative of the activity of cranberries within the body, it would suggest that OPCs may be a valuable tool in the promotion of arterial health and improved circulation. (1)

Oligomeric procyanidins may in fact be partially or primarily responsible for the cardiovascular benefits that cranberries provide. However, I’ve conjured up another theory that I believe is worth considering. What if cranberries improve heart health by making the body a far less hospitable environment for pathogenic bacteria? If this doesn’t currently make sense to you, please stick with me. I think you’ll see where I’m going in the next few paragraphs.

Three recent studies point to a link between a harmful bacterium, Helicobacter pylori (HP), and a variety of risk factors for cardiovascular disease. A Turkish experiment from March 2010 examined changes that occurred in a group of 88 patients who underwent H. pylori eradication therapy – which involves the use of select antibiotics. The findings of the trial indicated “beneficial effects of HP eradication on insulin resistance, atherogenic lipid abnormalities and low-grade inflammation. The results suggest that HP eradication may prevent coronary artery disease and metabolic syndrome”. An Italian study from December 2009 also found that men treated for H. pylori demonstrated higher HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels and lower C-reactive protein (an inflammatory marker) and fibrinogen (which can impair healthy circulation) up to 5 years post treatment. Meanwhile, a current Japanese trial determined that H. pylori infections were associated with arterial stiffness, as measured by pulse wave velocity in adults with type 2 diabetes. (2,3,4)

To be clear, no one is proposing that H. pylori is the sole cause of cardiovascular disease. However, it could very well be one potential influencing factor. For instance, some researchers have noted that HP has been detected in previous investigations of diseased coronary arteries. H. pylori has also been linked to increased systemic inflammation and the promotion of platelet aggregation, the clumping together of platelets which could result in blood clots. (5)

The Scientific Method

It just so happens that cranberries have been shown to combat HP growth and decrease the ability of HP to adhere to and colonize in sensitive tissues within the body. A 2005 study went so far as to examine the effects of cranberry juice in a population of 189 adults with clinically established HP infections. Half of the participants were asked to drink “two 250-ml juice boxes of cranberry juice or a matching placebo daily for 90 days”. The scientists conducting the trial used a special breath test (13C-urea breath test) to determine efficacy throughout the course of treatment. The cranberry intervention was deemed only somewhat effective – 11 of 97 cranberry users were completely free of HP by the 90 day mark compared to only 5 of 92 in the placebo group. However, other studies reveal that using cranberry in addition to conventional treatment may be a more advisable way to go. The combination of cranberry + antibiotics appears to improve overall treatment outcomes. (6,7,8,9,10,11,12)

The clinical use of standardized cranberry extracts is already a well established technique in the natural management of urinary tract infections. These days, researchers are also taking note of this berry’s substantial antioxidant properties which could result in benefits in conditions ranging from age-related memory decline to cancer. These developments are all promising indeed. However, I think it may be wise to go further down the cranberry path. What I’m suggesting here today is that doctors and patients perhaps keep an eye out for signs of H. pylori infection – especially in those at high risk for heart disease. In many cases, HP infections aren’t easily recognized based on common symptoms alone such as frequent belching or bloating, heartburn, indigestion, nausea or unexplained weight loss. This is why it may be all the more important to keep this potential risk factor on our radar and test for it as needed. (13,14,15,16,17,18)

In closing I want mention two important points when selecting a cranberry source. If you decide to use cranberry juice, you’ll do well to look for a product that contains 100% cranberry juice. Beware that some manufacturers try to trick consumers by including a large percentage of “filler juices” such as apple juice or white grape juice in their products. In order to derive the greatest possible benefit from cranberries, you’ll need to use pure, tart cranberry juice that is rich in OPCs. You’ll notice that this variety of cranberry juice has a deep, rich appearance reminiscent of red wine. Remember that you can always dilute the pure juice with water and a touch of stevia if you like a milder, sweeter taste. Another viable option is to use concentrated, encapsulated cranberry supplements. There are many clinically proven products on the market. A few of my favorites include supplements containing Cran-Max or Cran-Rich cranberry extracts.

Update: January 2011 – In recent months, the cranberry-heart connection has only strengthened. Upon careful review, I’ve identified several additional mechanisms by which cranberry extracts and juice may promote cardiovascular health: 1) antioxidants present in cranberries (p-Coumaric acid and quercetin) interfere with the digestion of high glycemic carbohydrates which results in a predictable decline in post-meal blood sugar levels and hyperglycemia; 2) chemicals contained in cranberries are capable of chelating iron, an excess of which is associated with an elevated risk of heart disease; 3) preliminary studies indicate that cranberry antioxidants protect against chemically-induced heart damage in an animal model. This last bit of information is supported by placebo-controlled trials that have similarly discovered meaningful antioxidant protection in human subjects. When viewed in toto this new collection of evidence adds more weight to the role that cranberries and pure cranberry juice can play in most heart healthy diets and lifestyles. (19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27)

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Heart Health, Nutrition

9 Comments & Updates to “Best of Cranberry Heart Therapy”

  1. Nina K. Says:

    Good morning, JP 🙂

    good, that i love cranberry jam in combination with cheese 🙂 tasty ♥ and healthy ☺

    Be well!
    Nina K.

  2. JP Says:

    Sounds delicious, Nina!

    We sometimes make homemade cranberry jam which I add to Greek yogurt. Also very tasty! 🙂

    Be well!


  3. Orv Says:

    JP, I do the same thing that you do with the Greek yogurt,
    except I use this freeze dried cranberry powder, A company called
    Nutri Fruit, makes it. It is 100% fruit, so there is no sugar or any kind of additives in it. I use it for urinary tract health, mixes great in the yogurt.

    good health,


  4. JP Says:


    That sounds like a winning combination!

    Be well!


  5. Derek Says:

    I’d like to say thanks to you for mentioning Nutri Fruit, I am a representative from the company. Please contact me at XXXXXXXXX if you’d like a free can.
    JP would you be interested in any samples to try? we have 7 other flavors. you can find them all at http://www.nutrifruit.com feel free to contact me as well. The health benefits are truly amazing.

    Take Care and Thanks!


  6. JP Says:

    Update: Cranberries may reduce the build up of harmful oral bacteria …


    Contemp Clin Dent. 2015 Jan-Mar;6(1):35-9.

    Comparative assessment of Cranberry and Chlorhexidine mouthwash on streptococcal colonization among dental students: A randomized parallel clinical trial.

    BACKGROUND: Chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash has earned an eponym of the gold standard against oral infections, but with certain limitations. There is no effective alternative to Chlorhexidine. Cranberry is known to inhibit bacterial adhesion in various systemic infections and acts as a strong antioxidant. However, it is less explored for its dental use. Hence, there is a need to evaluate its effect against oral infections.

    AIM: The aim was to compare the efficacy of 0.2% Chlorhexidine mouthwash with 0.6% Cranberry mouthwash on Streptococcus mutans.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: This was a double-blind, randomized parallel group clinical trial. Total sample of 50 subjects, aged 18-20 years, were randomly divided into two groups, Group A (25) and Group B (25) were given 10 mL of Chlorhexidine mouthwash and Cranberry mouthwash twice daily, respectively, for 14 days each. The plaque samples, which were taken from the subjects on 1(st) day and 14(th) day, were inoculated on blood agar plates and incubated at 37°C for 24-48 h. Number of streptococcal colony forming units were calculated using digital colony counter. The data were subjected to paired t-test and unpaired t-test at a 5% significance level.

    RESULTS: (1) Chlorhexidine mouthwash showed 69% reduction whereas Cranberry mouthwash showed 68% reduction in S. mutans count. (2) No significant difference was seen between Chlorhexidine and Cranberry mouthwash on streptococci.

    CONCLUSION: Cranberry mouthwash is equally effective as Chlorhexidine mouthwash with beneficial local and systemic effect. Hence, it can be used effectively as an alternative to Chlorhexidine mouthwash.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    I’m sorry I missed you comment, Derek! Thank you for your generous offer. I’ll be in touch!

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Update 04/28/15:


    J Nutr. 2015 Apr 22. pii: jn203190.

    Cranberry Juice Consumption Lowers Markers of Cardiometabolic Risk, Including Blood Pressure and Circulating C-Reactive Protein, Triglyceride, and Glucose Concentrations in Adults.

    BACKGROUND: Cardiometabolic risk is the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, or stroke, which are leading causes of mortality and morbidity worldwide.

    OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to determine the potential of low-calorie cranberry juice (LCCJ) to lower cardiometabolic risk.

    METHODS: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-arm study was conducted with controlled diets. Thirty women and 26 men (mean baseline characteristics: 50 y; weight, 79 kg; body mass index, 28 kg/m2) completed an 8-wk intervention with LCCJ or a flavor/color/energy-matched placebo beverage. Twice daily volunteers consumed 240 mL of LCCJ or the placebo beverage, containing 173 or 62 mg of phenolic compounds and 6.5 or 7.5 g of total sugar per a 240-mL serving, respectively.

    RESULTS: Fasting serum triglycerides (TGs) were lower after consuming LCCJ and demonstrated a treatment × baseline interaction such that the participants with higher baseline TG concentrations were more likely to experience a larger treatment effect (1.15 ± 0.04 mmol/L vs. 1.25 ± 0.04 mmol/L, respectively; P = 0.027). Serum C-reactive protein (CRP) was lower for individuals consuming LCCJ than for individuals consuming the placebo beverage [ln transformed values of 0.522 ± 0.115 ln(mg/L) vs. 0.997 ± 0.120 ln(mg/L), P = 0.0054, respectively, and equivalent to 1.69 mg/L vs. 2.71 mg/L back-transformed]. LCCJ lowered diastolic blood pressure (BP) compared with the placebo beverage (69.2 ± 0.8 mm Hg for LCCJ vs. 71.6 ± 0.8 mm Hg for placebo; P = 0.048). Fasting plasma glucose was lower (P = 0.03) in the LCCJ group (5.32 ± 0.03 mmol/L) than in the placebo group (5.42 ± 0.03 mmol/L), and LCCJ had a beneficial effect on homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance for participants with high baseline values (P = 0.035).

    CONCLUSION: LCCJ can improve several risk factors of CVD in adults, including TGs, CRP, glucose, insulin resistance, and diastolic BP.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:


    Mol Nutr Food Res. 2016 May 31.

    Cranberry (poly)phenol metabolites correlate with improvements in vascular function: A double-blind, randomized, controlled, dose-response, crossover study.

    SCOPE: Cranberries are rich in potentially bioactive (poly)phenols. The aim of this work was to investigate whether cranberry juice intake can improve vascular function in healthy men in a dose- and time-dependent manner, and to understand which of the circulating (poly)phenol metabolites correlate with vascular effects.

    METHODS AND RESULTS: A double-blind randomized controlled crossover trial was conducted in 10 healthy males. Flow-mediated dilation (FMD), blood pressure, pulse wave velocity and augmentation index were investigated at baseline, 1, 2, 4, 6, and 8h post-consumption of cranberry juices containing 409, 787, 1238, 1534, and 1910 mg of total cranberry (poly)phenols (TP), and a control drink. Plasma (poly)phenol metabolites were analyzed by UPLC-Q-TOF MS using authentic standards. We observed dose-dependent increases in FMD at 1, 2, 4, 6, and 8h with a peak at 4h and maximal effects with juice containing 1238 mg TP. A total of 60 metabolites were quantified in plasma after cranberry consumption. Twelve (poly)phenol metabolites significantly correlated with the increases in FMD, including ferulic and caffeic acid sulfates, quercetin-3-O-ß-D-glucuronide and a γ-valerolactone sulfate.

    CONCLUSION: (Poly)phenols in cranberry juice can improve vascular function in healthy males and this is linked to the presence of specific newly identified plasma metabolites.

    Be well!


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