Juice May Reduce Risks for Heart Disease
more good news about cranberry juice: Based on human studies, researchers
have found that drinking three glasses a day significantly raises
levels of "good cholesterol" in the blood and increases
plasma antioxidant levels, reducing the risk of heart disease.
have long suspected, based on laboratory tests, that
the antioxidant-rich juice may help lower risk factors for heart
disease, no human studies had established such a link until now.
Their findings, the first long-term study of the effect of cranberry
juice on cholesterol levels, were described today at the 225th
national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's
"This study gives consumers another reason to consider drinking
cranberry juice, which has more health benefits than previously
believed. People should consider drinking it with their meals,
perhaps as an alternative to soda," says Joe Vinson, Ph.D.,
the study's lead author and a professor of chemistry at the University
of Scranton in Scranton, Penn.
Other Health Benefits of Cranberries
Besides heart benefits, previous studies have shown that cranberries
can help prevent urinary tract infections and may reduce the
risk of gum disease, stomach ulcers and cancer.
In the current study, Vinson measured cholesterol levels in nineteen
subjects with high cholesterol after a fasting, baseline blood
sampling, followed by monthly samplings. Ten of the subjects were
given cranberry juice with artificial sweetener but without high
fructose corn syrup, while the other subjects drank cranberry juice
with no added sugars. The drinks tested all contained approximately
27 percent pure cranberry juice by volume, like the common supermarket
Each subject was fed one glass (8 ounces) of juice a day for the
first month, then two glasses a day for the next month, and three
glasses a day during the third month of the study. Subjects were
not monitored with respect to exercise, diet and alcohol consumption,
the researcher says.
Good Cholesterol Levels Increased With Cranberry Juice
While there were no changes in overall cholesterol levels, good
cholesterol (high density lipoprotein, or HDL) appeared to significantly
increase by an average of 10 percent after three servings of
juice per day. Based on known epidemiological data on heart disease,
this increase corresponds to an approximate 40 percent reduction
in heart disease risk, says Vinson.
capacity, a measure of the total amount of antioxidants available
body, was significantly increased — by
as much as 121 percent — after 2 or 3 servings of juice per
day, he says. Like elevated levels of good cholesterol, increased
antioxidant levels are also associated with a decreased risk of
Polyphenols in Cranberry Juice
The mechanism by which cranberry juice changes cholesterol levels
has not been clearly established. Vinson suspects that the effect
may have to do with the fruit's high levels of polyphenols, a
type of potent antioxidant. Previous studies by the researcher
have shown that cranberries have among the highest levels of
phenols in comparison to 20 of the most commonly consumed fruits.
Eventually, Vinson plans to test the effect of cranberry juice
consumption on subjects with normal cholesterol levels. To get
the most health benefit from the juice, the researcher recommends
drinking a low sugar version that contains an artificial sweetener.
Other Juices Also Provide Health Benefits
If you don't like cranberry juice, there are other heart-healthy
alternatives. A recent study by another researcher showed that
drinking three cups of orange juice per day similarly increased
levels of good cholesterol. Unlike cranberry juice, however,
it did not appear to increase plasma antioxidant capacity, says
As both juices are healthy, he suggests that people may want to
include both types as part of their daily diet.
Grape juice, another breakfast favorite, increases plasma antioxidant
capacity but appears to lower the level of good cholesterol, according
to another study by Vinson.
There are many other types of juice whose effect on cholesterol
levels is not known, he adds. But don't forget exercise: Studies
have shown that vigorous aerobic exercise has also been linked
to increases in good cholesterol, says Vinson.
The current study underscores government health recommendations
that people should eat more fruits and vegetables to help maintain
a healthy diet and lifestyle.
The Cranberry Institute provided funding for this study.
Source: American Nutraceutical Association
to Nutraceuticals Reference Section
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