Americans Discover the Bacteria-Blocking Properties of Native Fruit
One of North America's only native fruits is being recognized for its versatility, convenience and powerful nutritional benefits as Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman officially proclaims October National Cranberry Month.
"The tart and tangy flavor of cranberries really makes them a unique treat, and they are fun to pair with lots of our usual favorites," said Jackie Newgent, New York-based chef and registered dietitian. "With all of the research supporting the positive health benefits of cranberries, people should be seeking ways to enjoy them all year round - not just at Thanksgiving."
Drawing national attention to cranberries might help people gain a new appreciation for the most misunderstood berry. "We have found that many people - including health professionals - know that cranberries can help ward off bladder and urinary tract infections (UTIs). Cranberries have so much more to offer in the way of health benefits, and October is our chance to kick start the education process," said Martin Starr, PhD, Science Advisor to the Cranberry Institute.
Dr. Amy Howell, research scientist with Rutgers University agrees. "Most people think that the cranberry's UTI-fighting abilities come from the fruit's acidity. Our studies show that cranberries actually contain 'bacteria-blockers', which prevent bad bacteria from sticking to cells and organs where they can multiply and cause infections," said Howell.
Dr. Howell's landmark study into this bacteria-blocking action was published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1998. This and other recent work has led scientists to other compelling areas of research:
Antibiotic resistance: Recently, another major Howell-led study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association focused on the ability of cranberry juice cocktail to disable E. coli bacteria responsible for UTIs - even some types known to be resistant to antibiotics.
Ulcer Prevention: New studies suggest that cranberries keep some strains of ulcer-causing bacteria from sticking to the stomach cells, which is the first step in the formation of certain ulcers.
Gum Disease: The same bacteria-blocking mechanism that helps prevent UTIs appears to keep certain bacteria from gathering on the surface of the tooth, which could reduce the formation of harmful plaque that leads to gum disease.
Federally funded studies: The National Institutes of Health has also approved funding for additional research on cranberries and health. The National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the NIH, will undertake this multi-year program.
Cranberries rank as one of the best sources of valuable antioxidants, such as flavonoids, that can also aid in the prevention of heart disease and certain types of cancer.
"Cranberries are a nutritional powerhouse," said Jackie Newgent, RD. "They should be on everyone's A-list for foods that are delicious, nutritious, and easy to prepare."
The Cranberry Institute, a non-profit organization founded in 1951 to promote education and research, funds exploration into health and medical benefits of cranberry as well as topics related to environmental stewardship. Visit www.cranberryinstitute.org
The Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research Center, located in Chatsworth, NJ, maintains research programs on the identification of natural products in cranberry with health benefits.