Cranberry’s best benefits go beyond the bladder

What’s the first thing you do when you feel the burning pain of a urinary tract infection coming on? Reach for the cranberry juice, of course. And you’re not the only one. Cranberry juice is the go-to remedy of UTI-sufferers everywhere.

Nowadays, even your doctor is probably on-board with using cranberries to promote bladder health. The body of research behind it is that strong. Researchers have been studying the cranberry’s effect on your bladder for over 50 years. And one recent study found that chronic UTI-sufferers cut the frequency of their infections by 40 percent just by drinking a glass of cranberry juice every day.

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But if you only turn to cranberries for your bladder emergencies, then you’re missing out. Because the health benefits of this tart little berry are whole lot sweeter than you ever thought…

In the latest issue of Advances in Nutrition, a team of international researchers decided that cranberries don’t just benefit your bladder, they benefit your whole body. Scientists have known for a while now that cranberries are packed with cancer-fighting polyphenols. But now they also know that cranberries contain other bioactive compounds that work with these polyphenols to:

  • Improve your gut health
  • Strengthen your immune system
  • Keep your heart healthy
  • Balance your blood sugar

In fact, the health benefits of this well-known but often underrated berry are so great, that researchers believe they are just beginning to understand the many ways cranberries can help the human body.

“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,” said Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. “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.”

Of course, when it comes to treating UTIs, cranberries are effective because they prevent bacteria from taking root in your body. And it’s this ability that’s gotten a lot of attention recently — especially as antibiotic resistance becomes a bigger and bigger problem.

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In fact, researchers from UMass Dartmouth recently concluded that cranberries could play an important role in antibiotic development down the line. That’s because cranberries contain compounds known as proanthocyanidins (PACs) that block bacteria from adhering to your tissues. And if bacteria can’t adhere to you, they can’t infect you.

So it turns out this small super-berry does a lot more than just fight a little bladder bacteria…

It promotes whole-body health — which means it’s time to start drinking more than the occasional UTI-related cup of cranberry juice. Drink cranberry juice, take cranberry supplements or eat cranberries daily. Just avoid over-sweetened products like cranberry juice cocktail and canned cranberry sauce… unless it’s Thanksgiving, of course… still homemade is best!

Sources:
  1. B. Blumberg, A. Basu, C.G. Krueger, M. Lila. “Impact of Cranberries on Gut Microbiota and Cardiometabolic Health: Proceedings of the Cranberry Health Research Conference 2015.” Advances in Nutrition. July 2016. 7: 759S-770S.
  2. Gupta, B. Song, C. Netob, T.A. Camesanoa “Atomic force microscopy-guided fractionation reveals the influence of cranberry phytochemicals on adhesion of Escherichia coli.” Food & Function Issue 6, 2016.
  3. C. Maki, K.L Kaspar, C. Khoo, L.H. Derrig, A.L. Schild and K. Gupta. “Consumption of a cranberry juice beverage lowered the number of clinical urinary tract infection episodes in women with a recent history of urinary tract infection.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. June 2016, v.103 no. 6, 1434-1442.

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.