cranberries: not just for the holidays!

by Jenna A. Bell PhD, RD, CSSD on Dec 08, 2010

Food for Thought

The tart, tangy cranberry often accompanies a holiday meal, but did you know that the berry can offer year-round benefits? Here are five factoids you may not know about this unassuming superfruit:

1. Research has shown that consuming cranberry products helps to protect against urinary tract infections (UTI) in men and women (Howell 2002; Howell et al. 2005; Gupta et al. 2007; Vidlar et al. 2010). UTIs cause pain and inconvenience for approximately 11 million women per year and cost over $1.6 billion annually to treat (Foxman et al. 2000).

2. Cranberries contain polyphenols, called proanthocyanidins (PACs). The unusual A-type structure of the cranberry PACs appears to be responsible for the protective properties not found in other PAC-containing fruits and vegetables (Howell et al. 2005). PACs in cranberries help prevent the adhesion of certain Escherichia coli (E. coli) strains to the urinary tract walls, thereby helping to protect against urinary tract infections. (Gupta et al. 2007).

3. Cranberry PACs can battle bacteria for a full day after consumption. Howell et al. (2010) found that 72 milligrams of PACs from cranberry powder stunted bacterial adhesion in a dose-dependent manner for 24 hours after ingestion.

4. Most people find cranberries too tart to eat out of hand, so they typically need to be sweetened for palatability.

5. Research shows that 8 ounces (oz) of 25% cranberry juice cocktail provides the amount of antioxidants equivalent to 11/2 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries, 1 oz of sweetened dried fruit or half a cup of cranberry sauce (Vinson et al. 2001; Vinson et al. 2008; Halvorsen et al. 2006).
—Jenna A. Bell, PhD, RD, CSSD

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References

Foxman, B., et al. 2000. Urinary tract infection: Self-reported incidence and associated costs. Annals of Epidemiology, 10 (8), 509-15.

Gupta, K., et al. 2007. Cranberry products inhibit adherence of p-fimbriated Escherichia coli to primary cultured bladder and vaginal epithelial cells. Journal of Urology, 177 (6), 2357-60.

Halvorsen, B.L., et al. 2006. Content of redox-active compounds (i.e., antioxidants) in foods consumed in the United States. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 84 (1), 95-135.

Howell, A.B. 2002. Cranberry proanthocyanidins and the maintenance of urinary tract health. Critical Review of Food Science Nutrition, 42 (3S), 273-78.

Howell, A.B., et al. 2005. A-type cranberry proanthocyanidins and uropathogenic bacterial anti-adhesion activity. Phytochemistry, 66 (18), 2281-91.

Howell, A.B., et al. 2010. Dosage effect on uropathogenic Escherichia coli anti-adhesion activity in urine following consumption of cranberry powder standardized for proanthocyanidin content: A multicentric randomized double blind study. BMC Infectious Diseases, 10, 94.

Vidlar, A., et al. 2010. The effectiveness of dried cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) in men with urinary tract symptoms. British Journal of Nutrition, 104 (8), 1-9.

Vinson, J.A., et al. 2001. Phenol antioxidant quantity and quality in foods, fruits. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 49 (11), 5315-21.

Vinson, J.A., et al. 2008. Cranberries and cranberry products: Powerful in vitro, ex vivo, and in vivo sources of antioxidants. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 56 (14), 5884-91.

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About the Author

Jenna A. Bell PhD, RD, CSSD

Jenna A. Bell PhD, RD, CSSD IDEA Author/Presenter

Dr. Jenna A. Bell is the co-author of Energy to Burn: The Ultimate Food & Nutrition Guide to Fuel your Active Lifestyle (John Wiley & Sons 2009) and Launching Your Dietetics Career (ADA 2011), Nutrition Communications Consultant and member of the Editorial Advisory Board for Today’s Dietitian. Dr. Bell is a leader with the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, including positions with Nutrition Entrepreneurs and the Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group. She is an international presenter for healthcare professionals and consumers, and her expertise have been featured in Us Weekly, Self Magazine, Fitness magazine, Pilates Style, Men’s Health, Runner’s World, IDEA Fitness Journal, IDEA Health and Fitness Source, IDEA Personal Trainer, other print publications and on the web. She’s been published in scientific journals, and appeared on the Daily Buzz, ABC, NBC and FOX affiliates, local and national radio programs and podcasts. Jenna is a Nutrition Advisor to international sports nutrition companies, and has worked in public relations for 15 years. She has provided nutrition seminars at major athletic events like the Boston Marathon, the ING New York City Marathon, Bank of American Chicago Marathon and the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona, HI. Jenna is a two-time Ironman Finisher and completed three marathons. In addition, she has competed in numerous sprint and Olympic distance triathlons and road races. Dr. Bell earned her doctorate with Distinction in Health and Human Performance with an emphasis on Exercise Science at the University of New Mexico, Masters Degree with Distinction in Nutrition and dietetic internship, and Bachelors in Nutritional Sciences from the University of New Hampshire. She is a popular speaker and writer for IDEA Fitness Journal. She is currently based in Saint Petersburg, Florida.