Cranberries have been promoted to help prevent urinary infections (UTIs) for decades, but new research from Tufts University finds they provide health benefits for the entire body. Scientists found that compounds in cranberry interact with each other to create a synergy that is unique to the tangy fruit.
"It has been established that cranberries rank high among the berry fruits that are rich in health-promoting polyphenols," said lead author, Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, MA. "But now, recent investigations have shown that the cranberry polyphenols may interact with other bioactive compounds in cranberries that could protect the gut microbiota, and provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory functions that benefit the cardiovascular system, metabolism and immune function."
Scientists have recently recognized how important a role gut microorganisms play in human health. New studies have found gut microbiome — the population of microbes in the gut — may affect the health of the immune system and brain, as well as how the body uses carbohydrates and fat. Preliminary studies, some of which were performed in animals, have discovered that cranberry compounds show promise in helping to strengthen the gut defense system and protecting against infection.
In their examination of recent studies, Tufts scientists found links between cranberry products — cranberry juice, dried cranberries, and cranberry extracts — and blood pressure, blood lipids (blood fats), and blood flow. Another study found a benefit for people living with Type 2 diabetes. Researchers attribute the benefits for heart health and diabetes management to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of the polyphenols in cranberries.
"The bioactives in cranberry juice, dried cranberries and a variety of other cranberry sources have been shown to promote an array of beneficial health effects," explains Dr. Blumberg. "Given the complex nature and diversity of compounds found in berry fruits and how they interact with each other, I believe we have only scratched the surface when it comes to identifying the potential power of the cranberry."
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