Pedro is a Technology consultant, former CIO, former DoD & DARPA contractor, natural alternative medicine and ancient history researcher, former U.S. Army paratrooper, active seeker of the truth in Jesus the Christ.

“You’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.”

 

Cranberries Good for Urinary Tract Infections and More

Posted by   

4 Comments »

Cranberries

Photo: Cranberries

According to Wikipedia–“”Since the early 21st century within the global functional food industry, there has been a rapidly growing recognition of raw (not dried) cranberries for their consumer product popularity, nutrient content and antioxidant qualities, giving them commercial status as a “superfruit.”

I’ve done a little bit of research, and this is what I’ve found:

Origins and Historical use
Folk Medicine
Culinary uses
Health benefits
Research
Negative effects / allergies
References

Origins and Historical use

The cranberry, along with the blueberry and Concord grape, is one of North America’s three native fruits that are commercially grown. Cranberries were first used by Native Americans, who discovered the wild berry’s versatility as a food, fabric dye and healing agent. Today, cranberries are commercially grown throughout the northern part of the United States and are available in both fresh and processed forms. The name “cranberry” derives from the Pilgrim name for the fruit, “craneberry”, so called because the small, pink blossoms that appear in the spring resemble the head and bill of a crane. European settlers adopted the Native American uses for the fruit and found the berry a valuable bartering tool. Native Americans use cranberries for food, dyes and medicine.

Cranberries are a unique fruit. They can only grow and survive under a very special combination of factors: they require an acid peat soil, an adequate fresh water supply, sand and a growing season that stretches from April to November, including a dormancy period in the winter months that provides an extended chilling period, necessary to mature fruiting buds.

Folk Medicine

Native Americans believed in the medicinal value of cranberries, long before science discovered cranberry’s beneficial properties. Medicine men would use cranberries in poultices to draw poison from arrow wounds. The tannin content of cranberries made them excellent as a poultice. Cranberry has been a popular folk remedy for a variety of illnesses, including gout, rheumatism, diarrhea, constipation, scurvy, fevers and skin problems. Sailors used cranberries as a source of vitamin C to prevent scurvy. Cranberry juice was given to treat medical conditions such as urinary tract infections in children. Cranberry was used in nursing homes to keep the urine of incontinent patients from developing an unpleasant ammonia-like odor.

Culinary uses

Legend has it that the Pilgrims served cranberries at the first Thanksgiving. Cranberries are normally considered too sharp to be eaten plain and raw, as they are not only sour but bitter as well. About 95% of cranberries are processed into products such as juice drinks, sauce, and sweetened dried cranberries. The remaining 5% are sold fresh to consumers. Cranberry juice is a major use of cranberries; it is usually either sweetened to make “cranberry juice cocktail” or blended with other fruit juices to reduce its natural severe tartness. Cranberry juice can be used in various other recipes. Cranberry juice can be incorporated into a jello recipe to add richness and depth of flavor. It can be used in a variety of punches and alcoholic drink mixtures. Cranberry juice can be used as an ingredient when preparing a cranberry pie. There are also some uses for cranberry juice such as preparation of a sauce to be served with beets. In addition, cranberry juice may be used instead of water to add moisture and flavor when slow roasting a piece of meat such as brisket.

Usually cranberries as fruit are cooked into a compote or jelly, known as cranberry sauce. Such preparations are traditionally served with roast turkey, as a staple of English Christmas dinners, and the Canadian and US holiday Thanksgiving. The color of cranberries makes them a good garnish option, particularly for holiday meals. The berry is also used in baking; muffins, scones and cakes. Fresh cranberries are often used in muffins and quick breads to add both color and flavor. Fresh cranberries are also used for relishes, cookies, salads. Sometimes cranberries are used to add tartness to savory dishes such as soups and stews. Cranberry vinegar is combined with olive oil to make cranberry vinaigrette as dressing for salads. Cranberry vinegar can be used as a marinade for white fish, pork, lamb or chicken. The subtle flavour of these particular meats pairs well with the sweet acidity of cranberry vinegar.

Health benefits

Though cranberries are tiny, they are potent. Raw cranberries have moderate levels of vitamin C, dietary fiber and the essential dietary mineral, manganese, as well as a balanced profile of other essential micronutrients. Cranberries contain antioxidants in abundance which has antibacterial effects on the body. Cranberry has an ORAC score of 9,584 units per 100g. Raw cranberries are a source of polyphenol antioxidants, phytochemicals under active research for possible benefits to the cardiovascular system and immune system, and as anti-cancer agents. Cranberry juice contains powerful antioxidants that help to prevent or repair the damages caused by free radicals. Drinking cranberry juice helps in the increase of good cholesterol and the reduction of bad (LDL) cholesterol. Fresh cranberry juice is effective at fighting against infections. It cures sore throats and colds.

Cranberries have a long history of use in the prevention and treatment of urinary tract infections. Cranberry juice has been proven effective in bladder infections by acidifying the urine and rendering the bacteria unable to adhere to the bladder lining. The juice has also been used for kidney stones (and their prevention) and chronic urethritis. Cranberry helps deodorize the urine and is useful for incontinence. While cranberry is known for killing the bacteria that cause kidney and bladder infections, it is also helpful in dissolving kidney stones and gallstones.  Kidney stones are most often caused by high levels of ionized calcium in the urine, and cranberries can help prevent this condition because they are rich in quinic acid, which increases the acidity of the urine.  As a result, the levels of ionized calcium in the urine are lowered. There are claims that cranberry may help in the treatment of gout, which is characterized by a raised blood uric acid level, and severe, acute onset of arthritis resulting from crystal deposits of sodium urate in the connective tissues and cartilage. The anthocyanin in cranberry is said to be effective in inhibiting uric acid from crystallizing in joints.

Cranberry juice is rich in organic acids. These have an emulsifying effect on the fat deposits in our body. So it is good for people who want to shed those extra kilos. Cranberry juice should be consumed unsweetened for maximum health benefit. Since 2002, there has been an increasing focus on the potential role of cranberry polyphenolic constituents in preventing several types of cancer.

Research

Cranberries are among the top foods with proven health benefits, according to Amy Howell, a researcher at Rutgers University. Cranberries are full of antioxidants, which protects cells from damage by unstable molecules called free radicals. The National Institutes of Health is funding research on the cranberry’s effects on heart disease, yeast infections and other conditions, and other researchers are investigating its potential against cancer, stroke and viral infections. So far, research has been able to confirm:

  • Drinking cranberry juice can block urinary infections by binding to bacteria so they can’t adhere to cell walls. While women often drink unsweetened cranberry juice to treat an infection, there’s no hard evidence that works.
  • A compound Howell discovered in cranberries, proanthocyanidine, prevents plaque formation on teeth; mouthwashes containing it are being developed to prevent periodontal disease.
  • In some people, regular cranberry juice consumption for months can kill the H. pylori bacteria, which can cause stomach cancer and ulcers.

Preliminary research also showed that: drinking cranberry juice daily may increase levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and reduce levels of LDL (bad cholesterol); cranberries may prevent tumors from growing rapidly or starting in the first place; extracts of chemicals in cranberries prevent breast cancer cells from multiplying in a test tube.

Antioxidant activity:1,2,3 Oxidative stress is believed to play a role in normal aging and in development of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, cataracts, Parkinson’s disease, and arthritis. Cranberries and related fruits contain many flavonoids and phenolic acids with antioxidant or other physiologically beneficial activities. Cranberry flavonoids include anthocyanins (responsible for their red pigment), flavonols, and proanthocyanidins. Recently, cranberries were identified as having among the highest amount of phenolic compounds of 20 common fruits tested on a fresh weight basis. Phenolic compounds exhibit antioxidant effects in vitro.

The role of oxidative stress on cardiovascular health is actively under investigation. Many researchers believe that prevention of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation may protect against plaque formation in blood vessels. Research has found that cranberry juice inhibited chemical oxidation of human LDL cholesterol ex vivo. Research has also investigated the effect of various cranberry flavonoid fractions on copper-induced oxidation of human LDL ex vivo. Of the fractions tested, the proanthocyanidins had the greatest inhibitory effect on oxidation. Recent studies provide evidence that cranberry PACs are absorbed, suggesting availability for this antioxidant effect in the body.

Cardiovascular:4,5,6 Flavonoids have been shown to function as potent antioxidants both in vitro and in vivo and may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. Cranberries contain significant amounts of flavonoids and polyphenolic compounds that have been demonstrated to inhibit low density lipoprotein oxidation.  Cranberries contain high levels of flavonoids that have antioxidant properties. Several in vitro studies have demonstrated inhibition of LDL oxidation and pro-inflammatory responses by cranberry juice. In one study, researchers found that drinking three glasses of cranberry juice per day raised good cholesterol 10%, which in turn decreased their risk of heart disease by 40%.

Bacterial anti-adhesion and antibiotic resistance:7 In the early 1920s, American scientists discovered that cranberry increased the urine’s acid content, and because bacteria cannot survive in an acidic environment, the researchers speculated that this was the reason cranberry was effective against urinary tract infections, which are commonly caused by bacteria, known as E. coli. Interestingly, however, recent laboratory studies have revealed that cranberry’s effectiveness is not due to its ability to acidify the urine as originally thought, but to its ability to prevent E. coli from adhering to the cells lining the wall of the bladder.  Without adhering to the bladder, E. coli cannot flourish, and test tube studies also suggest that cranberry may also inhibit the adherence of other species of organisms that cause urinary tract infections as well, such as Proteus, Klebsiella and Pseudomonas. In fact, cranberry prevents bacteria from sticking to the wall of the bladder, thus flushing the potential troublemakers out of the body before they do damage.

Urinary and respiratory infections:8,9 The anti-adhesive property of cranberry juice helps in cases of ear and respiratory infections, as well as urinary infections. Scientists found that cranberry juice can inhibit certain strains of Haemophilus influenzae, a type of bacteria found in the nose and throat of 75% of healthy children and adults. The bacteria can also cause infections, and may be responsible for up to 40% of bacterially-derived middle ear infections.

Gum diseases and cavities: Drinking cranberry juice can prevent gum disease and cavities. The adhesion of the different types of bacteria that cause periodontal gum disease has been shown to be inhibited by cranberry juice consumption.

Stomach conditions: The same type of bacteria is responsible for stomach ulcer and cancer and certain gastrointestinal conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Drinking cranberry juice can protect yourself against developing any of these conditions and many believe that you can even “cure” ulcers or symptoms experienced due to stomach conditions. Further laboratory studies have indicated that cranberries also prevent another micro-organism known as Helicobacter pylori  from adhering to cell walls.  H. pylori  is a bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers, so it is possible that cranberries may eventually prove to play a role in the prevention of this condition as well.

Anti-cancerous activity:10,11 Scientists continue to identify new mechanisms that establish cranberries as anti-cancer agents. These mechanisms are now known to include: blocked expression of MMPs (matrix metalloproteinases); inhibition of ODC (ornithine decarboxylase enzymes); stimulation of QRs (quinone reductase enzymes); inhibition of CYP2C9s (Phase I detoxification enzymes); and triggering of apoptosis (programmed cell death) in tumor cells. Raw cranberries and cranberry juice are abundant food sources of flavonoids such as proanthocyanidins, flavonols and anthocyanidins. These compounds have shown promise as anti-cancer agents in in vitro studies. However, their effectiveness in humans has not been established, and may be limited by poor absorption into cells and rapid elimination from the blood.

Research conducted at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, demonstrated cranberry might greatly boost an ovarian cancer patient’s sensitivity to chemotherapy. In laboratory experiments, pre-treating ovarian tumor cells with cranberry juice bumped up the cancer-killing power of drugs sixfold.  Although not yet clear how cranberry might kill malignant ovarian cells, the researchers noted that an antioxidant unique to Cranberries, the “A-type” proanthocyanidins, could be the key. This specific antioxidant is not present in other fruits and appears to bind with, and block the activity of, tumor proteins found in malignant ovarian cells, increasing their sensitivity to chemo. The researchers stressed that the finding is still experimental and preliminary, but it could offer a new option for patients whose ovarian cancer has become resistant to treatment.

Negative effects / allergies

Cranberries are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates. In the case of cranberries, the oxalate content is actually quite low, between 5-7 milligrams per 3.5 ounces. However despite their low oxalate content, cranberries are able to increase the amount of both oxalates and calcium in the urine, resulting in urine with increased concentrations of calcium oxalate. Individuals at risk of calcium oxalate kidney stone formation will most likely want to avoid cranberries for the above reasons, and if considering inclusion of cranberries in their diet, should consult beforehand with a qualified healthcare provider.

Special precautions and warnings: People who are on anticoagulant medication (warfarin) should consult with their physicians before taking cranberry. The connection between cranberry juice and warfarin treatment has now been clearly shown to involve the detoxification enzyme family CYP2C9. The activity of this enzyme family is needed to break down warfarin so that its anticoagulant activity does not become excessive. Research has not been able to conclusively prove the effect of cranberry on CYP2C9. It is advised to consult your physician before consuming cranberry if you are on warfarin.


References

  1. Wilson T, Porcari JP, Harbin D: Cranberry extract inhibits low density lipoprotein oxidation. Life Sci 62: 381–386
  2. Reed JD, Porter ML, Krueger CG, Wiebe DA: Cranberry proanthocyanidins differ in the inhibition of cupric induced oxidation of human low density lipoprotein. Fed Amer Soc Exper Biol J 15: A737
  3. Howell AB, Leahy M, Kurowska E, Guthrie N: In vivo evidence that cranberry proanthocyanidins inhibit adherence of P-fimbriated E. coli bacteria to uroepithelial cells. Fed Amer Soc Exper Biol J 15: A284
  4. Krueger, C.G., Porter, M.L., D.A., Cunningham, D.G., Reed, J.D. Potential of cranberry flavonoids in the prevention of copper-induced LDL oxidation. Polyphenols Communications, 2000: 447-448.
  5. Reed, J. Cranberry flavonoids, atherosclerosis and cardiovascular health. Critical Reviews in Food Science & Nutrition, 2002. 42(Suppl.): 301-316.
  6. Dohadwala MM, Holbrook M, Hamburg NM, et.al. Effects of cranberry juice consumption on vascular function in patients with coronary artery disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Mar
  7. Pinzón-Arango PA, Liu Y, Camesano TA. Role of cranberry on bacterial adhesion forces and implications for Escherichia coli-uroepithelial cell attachment. J Med Food. 2009 Apr; 12(2):259-70.
  8. Risco E, Miguélez C, Sánchez de Badajoz E, Rouseaud A. Effect of american cranberry (Cysticlean) on Escherichia coli adherence to bladder epithelial cells. In vitro and in vivo study. Arch Esp Urol. 2010 Jul-Aug; 63(6):422-30.
  9. Kontiokari T, Salo J, Eerola E, Uhari M. Cranberry juice and bacterial colonization in children–a placebo-controlled randomized trial. Clin Nutr. 2005 Dec; 24(6):1065-72.
  10. Neto CC (June 2007). “Cranberry and blueberry: evidence for protective effects against cancer and vascular diseases”. Mol Nutr Food Res 51 (6): 652–64
  11. MacLean MA, Scott BE, Deziel BA, Nunnelley MC, Liberty AM, Gottschall-Pass KT, Neto CC, Hurta RA. North American cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) stimulates apoptotic pathways in DU145 human prostate cancer cells in vitro. Nutr Cancer. 2011 Jan; 63(1):109-20.