Special edition: Cranberries

Science: The pick of cranberry’s health benefits

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Good for urinary tracts, stomachs, prostates?
Good for urinary tracts, stomachs, prostates?

Related tags: Cranberry

In the third part of our special series on cranberries, NutraIngredients looks at the science behind the reported health benefits of the little red berry.

According to the leviathan of the cranberry business, Ocean Spray, the health benefits of cranberries include mouth, bone, urinary, and stomach.

The fruit has long been considered an effective method of fighting urinary tract infections, something that has led to almost one third of parents in the US giving it to their children, according to a recent study.

In 2004 France became the first country to approve a health claim for the North American cranberry species Vaccinium macrocarpon​, which states that it can 'help reduce the adhesion of certain E.coli​ bacteria to the urinary tract walls'.

A health claim has also recently been awarded in Korea for Decas Botanicals’ PACran product. “PACran is the only cranberry ingredient in the world to have a health claim,” ​said Dan Souza, director of sales and marketing.

Another branded ingredient with sound science is Cran-Max. Once recent study showed the product approximately matched the efficacy of the antibiotic Trimethoprim for UTIs (Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy​, doi:10.1093/jac/dkn489). Another study reported the prevention UTIs in people with spinal cord injuries, a segment of the population at increased risks of infection (Spinal Cord​, doi:10.1038/sc.2008.25).

Recently, researchers from St. Francis College, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, and New York University reported that the anti-bacterial benefits may be matched by anti-viral benefits (Phytomedicine​, Vol. 14, pp. 23-30).

Stomachs, and possibly anti-cancer

In terms of stomach health, the focus has been on cranberry’s effects on the Helicobacter pylori​ bacterium - the only bacteria that can survive in the acidic environment of the stomach and known to cause peptic ulcers and gastritis.

Several reports have shown that the berries and their constituents are effective at inhibiting adhesion of the bacterium to the stomach wall, while a

There are also some reports in the literature for other health conditions. For example, researchers from Ohio State University and the Blueberry and Cranberry Research Center at Rutgers University reported that a proanthocyanidin-rich cranberry extract was found to inhibit the growth and spread of human oesophageal adenocarcinoma (a cancer in glandular tissue) cells (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry​, doi: 10.1021/jf071997t).

And earlier this year, a lab study from the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada reported that extracts from cranberry may prevent colon cancer via an anti-inflammatory mechanism (Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture​, Vol. 89, pp. 542-547).

Finally, a study presented earlier this year at the Experimental Biology conference by Ted Wilson from Winona State University found that sweetened dried cranberries with a reduced sugar and increased fibre content may benefit type-2 diabetics by delivering healthier glycemic and insulin responses.

The study, supported by Ocean Spray, found that consumption of the low-sugar high-fibre sweetened dried cranberries led to better glucose peaks and lower insulin peaks, with a peak insulin of 15, compared to 22 for both bread and sweetened cranberries, while raw cranberries produced a peak of 10 (FASEB Journal​, Experimental Biology Meeting Abstract, 2009, Volume 23: 900.6).

Tomorrow NutraIngredients will look at the regulations governing the cranberry industry.

To read the other articles in this series, please follow the links below:
Markets: Cranberry goes mainstream
Supply: From bog to cereal bar

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