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The Heart-Healthy Effect of Cranberries

Whenever you read about cranberries on my Web site, chances are very good it has to do with debunking the myth that cranberry juice is the best treatment for a urinary tract infection. Fact is, antioxidant-rich whole fresh cranberries, raw juice in health food stores and capsules of cranberry extract are far better options than drinking processed, sweetened cranberry juice.

A recent study shed new light on one of the lesser-known benefits of eating whole cranberries: Its natural ability to fight heart disease. Feeding cranberry juice powder made from whole cranberries seemed to relax and open blood vessels in pigs that are genetically susceptible to developing atherosclerosis, or clogged arteries.

Scientists evaluated various whole foods that contain antioxidants, flavonoids and polyphenols, all compounds that may protect against heart disease. Because cranberries contain all three of these compounds, researchers fed cranberry juice powder to pigs that were genetically predisposed to develop high cholesterol and atherosclerosis, just as some humans are.

After a six-month regimen of cranberry juice powder, the blood vessels of these pigs were relaxed and operated more like those of normal pigs. It's certainly a positive sign cranberries may improve vessel function in patients with high cholesterol and atherosclerosis which is critical in protecting them from heart attack or stroke.

Although pigs may not mind the intense tartness of concentrated cranberries, scientists predict someone will need to make cranberry juice powder more palatable to people. Here's one way to get around that: Add them to your vegetable juice. The combination is delightful.

One caveat: Large amounts of cranberries are not very good for you if you are overweight or have high blood pressure or diabetes, so be careful about eating too many of them.

EurekAlert May 5, 2005

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