Seeking to expand the use of cranberries and cranberry juice beyond urinary tract infections, the summary of the 2015 Cranberry Research Conference has been released and implicates the little red fruit in various cardiovascular and brain benefits, among other things. Most of the past research on cranberries has focused on polyphenols, though the conference summary suggests that further interactions with cranberry compounds can produce benefits reaching into the gut microbiome and beyond.
Numerous pieces of research were presented at the conference, and the summary is an attempt to collect the information together and determine broader trends and avenues of research. Among the findings that were presented:
- Blood pressure, cardiovascular, and diabetes improvements were attributed to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of cranberry polyphenols
- Unsweetened, dried cranberries were thought to aid in glucose management in type 2 diabetes
- Cranberry compounds, when tested in vitro and in animal studies, showed potential for protecting against gut pathogens by interfering with adhesion to the intestinal wall and biofilm formation
- Another paper described promising links between cranberries and blood pressure, blood flow, and blood lipid levels
The most intriguing piece of research to come out of the Conference has to do with interactions with gut microbes. One of the larger areas of recent research has been in the way that gut bacteria influence everything from brain health to cardiovascular health to the immune function and beyond. While the connections are still unclear and there is much debate as to what the implications of gut health are, interest is still high in finding different ways to promote gut health and protection.
Since the conference and much of the research was sponsored by the cranberry industry, there is a certain grain of salt that needs to be taken when looking over the research. Fortunately, the industry seems open to critical eyes and has even begun offering freeze-dried cranberry powder and a matching placebo to help spur further investigation.
Blumberg, J., “Impact of Cranberries on Gut Microbiota and Cardiometabolic Health: Proceedings of the Cranberry Health Research Conference 2015,” Advances in Nutrition, 2016; 10.3945/an.116.012583.