The Skinny on Cranberry Juice

Cranberry juice drinkers are more likely to be normal weight, have lower waist circumference and fewer risk markers for cardiovascular disease
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As the New Year kicks off and resolutions become reality, cranberry juice lovers can feel good knowing their favorite cranberry products are the perfect solution to a healthy 2014. A recent study published in Nutrients, a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by MDPI, identified a correlation between cranberry juice consumption and healthy body composition. The study joins the list of mounting evidence highlighting the fruit’s exceptional health benefits, giving consumers one more reason to feel good about enjoying the festive fruit every day, everywhere, every way.

Using the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, researchers found that adult (19+ years of age) cranberry juice consumers who drink an average of two glasses (14 ounces) of cranberry juice over two non-consecutive days have better cardiometabolic profiles (markers for cardiovascular disease) than those who do not consume the beverage. 

Of note was the association between cranberry beverage consumption and lower waist circumference, as well as the tendency to be less overweight or obese when compared to non-consumers. Additionally, of the groups evaluated, each demonstrated significantly lower risk of having high C-reactive protein levels, a marker of infection and inflammation, suggesting that cranberry juice consumers who may be more likely to have a healthy lifestyle may benefit further from incorporating cranberry juice into their diet.

While studies have observed similar associations with 100% juice, this study is among the first to observe a correlation between healthy body composition and cranberry juice cocktail specifically.

“The correlation between cranberry juice consumption and its nutritive benefits are clear,” said Kiyah J. Duffey, PhD, Virginia Tech, first author on the paper. “While the data are preliminary, the results suggest that cranberry juice cocktail can provide positive benefits and be part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.”

An Exceptional Fruit in Many Forms

In addition to the juice research, a study from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine adds new dimension to the benefits of dried cranberries—a snack that has gained worldwide popularity since the introduction of Craisins® Dried Cranberries more than two decades ago.

Long associated with urinary tract health, researchers identified a correlation between dried cranberry consumption and reduced incidence of urinary tract infections in susceptible women. 

After consuming a daily serving of dried cranberries for two weeks, more than half of the patients did not experience a urinary tract infection (UTI) within six months. The mean UTI rate per six months also decreased significantly, providing further support that cranberries—in dried or juice form—contribute to whole body health.

While more than 50 years of research has documented the effects of cranberry juice consumption on urinary tract health, the study, published in Nutrition Journal, is among the first to connect dried cranberry consumption with improved urinary tract health. Researchers continue to investigate nutritional approaches to treating UTIs because of the significant associated healthcare costs—upwards of $8.28 billion.3

Urinary tract infections are the second-most common bacterial infection and present a public health challenge. There are more than 15 million UTI cases in the U.S. each year, and their treatment contributes to antibiotic resistance.

A “Nutrient Powerhouse”

This research, along with the finding from NHANES, joins a substantial bank of emerging scientific evidence pointing towards the whole body health benefits of cranberries, including cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and general health and well-being.

So what fuels this little fruit?

Cranberries are packed with polyphenols, the same nutrients found in wine, tea, and certain other fruits. In fact, they contain more polyphenols per serving than many other popular fruits—100 grams of cranberries (or three and a half ounces) contain more polyphenolic antioxidants than the equivalent amount of strawberries, broccoli, white grapes, bananas, or apples.

But the real power behind this tiny fruit can be attributed to the cranberry’s unique proanthocyanidins or PACs, natural compounds which help to cleanse and purify the body by keeping certain bacteria from sticking.

Cranberries also contain flavonoids, a type of polyphenol found in colorful fruits and vegetables linked to improved cardiovascular and cellular health as well as reduced inflammation.

Enhancing Diets Worldwide

Because of the dense nutrients found in cranberries, scientists believe there’s a unique role for the fruit in helping to enhance diets and fulfill nutritional requirements worldwide. In fact, according to the NHANES study, simply adding eight ounces of cranberry juice or one serving of dried cranberries to consumers’ diets per day would nearly double the US population’s intake of flavonoids. 

“There is value in incorporating polyphenol-rich foods like cranberries into the diet,” added Duffey. “Whether it’s juice or dried, we’re seeing compelling evidence connecting cranberry consumption to overall health.”

Duffey presented her findings at a satellite session at the American Society for Nutrition’s 2013 Advances and Controversies in Clinical Nutrition Conference in Washington, DC in December. Joined by a panel of experts from policy, academia, and industry, the team convened to review new and existing evidence underscoring the positive effects of cranberry consumption in advance of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

To review the studies referenced above, or for more information on the health benefits of cranberries, visit cranberryhealth.com.