Last week a slew of studies were presented at the American Heart
Association’s High Blood Pressure Research 2012 Scientific Sessions.
Among them, was a trial funded by Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. – a
leading manufacturer of cranberry juice. The details of the study reveal
that the daily consumption of “low calorie” cranberry juice moderately
reduces blood pressure (by about 3 mmHg diastolic and systolic) as
compared to a placebo beverage. But, before you go out to the market to
stock up on low-cal cranberry “cocktails”, consider the details that
weren’t included in the mainstream press converge.
Reduced calorie cranberry juice is typically made by combining
cranberry concentrate or juice with water and artificial sweeteners. The
resulting product is undeniably lower in energy and pretty tasty.
However, it also lacks the nutrients and phytochemicals which make
cranberries a bonafide health food. Still, these dietetic drinks are
heavily marketed to children, diabetics and those hoping to lose weight.
Some nutritionists support their use because they’re lower in calories
than sugar sweetened
or undiluted juice. Manufacturers include them in their product lines
because they boast a more robust profit margin – artificial sweeteners
and water are cheaper than actual fruit juice.
The good reputation of cranberries has grown over the past several
years. A handful of studies, including some using low calorie cranberry
juice, have determined that this ruby red refresher is capable of
supporting cardiovascular health in a variety of ways. Specifically,
recent studies reveal that daily consumption of cranberry juice can: a) decrease cholesterol oxidation and lipid peroxidation while elevating overall antioxidant capacity; b)
encourage healthier circulation by reducing “carotid femoral pulse wave
velocity – a clinically relevant measure of arterial stiffness”; c) raise
HDL (“good”) cholesterol. What’s more, a 2007 review carried out by the
Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging points out
that cranberries are a rich source of naturally occurring chemicals
(anthocyanins, ellagic acid, flavonols, etc.) which are known to lower blood pressure and systemic inflammation.
If you’re concerned about cardiovascular health, there are a few
details that bear discussion prior to adopting a regular cranberry juice
routine. In the past, there were concerns expressed about potential
interactions between cranberry juice and “blood thinning” medications
such as Coumadin
(warfarin). More recent investigations have ruled this out as a
contraindication. In terms of which cranberries juice to use – I would
suggest making your own homemade, low calorie cranberry juice instead of
buying the premixed variety. The recipe I recommend is very simple and
can be adjusted based on taste preferences. In our home, I generally
combine equal parts 100% pure cranberry juice and purified water. I add
several drops of liquid stevia to the mixture. The end result is a more
natural product that provides higher levels of the therapeutic
components found in fresh cranberries. I addition, based on personal
blood sugar testing, this stevia-sweetened cranberry drink has virtually
no impact on my fasting and post-meal blood sugar levels.