Researchers say that cranberries improve the health of pigs’ hearts and may do the same for humans.
The fruit has already been shown to fight urinary infections, help prevent stomach ulcers, and protect against tooth decay.
Now U.S. scientists, who had suspected that antioxidant compounds called phenols in cranberries were good for the heart, say that early results from a study of pigs fed concentrated cranberry juice powder in their diets confirms their theory.
The pigs were genetically engineered to develop high cholesterol and hardened arteries and cranberry powder appeared to make their blood vessels relax and open more.
Abnormal blood vessel function is an important component of heart disease and finding ways to improve the way blood vessels perform by widening at the right time is crucial to preventing heart attacks and strokes.
Dr Kris Kruse-Elliott, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, says that after the pigs were fed cranberry juice powder made from whole cranberries for six months, their vessels were more like normal pigs.
Dr Kruse-Elliott says the next step is to determine what specific components of cranberries are most important to the improvements in vascular function that were observed, and how they modify blood vessel relaxation, and can be most easily consumed as part of the diet, as although the pigs did not mind the intense tartness of concentrated cranberries, cranberry juice powder will need to be made more palatable to people.
The findings were presented at the American Physiological Society’s annual meeting in San Diego.