Cranberry Extract Prevents Hardening of the Arteries

By Michael A. Smith, MD

A new study by scientists at Mayo Clinic shows that two glasses of cranberry juice a day may protect against the development of hardening of the arteries. In simple terms, hardening of the arteries occurs when calcium builds up within the wall of the artery. It seems that this pathological process is driven by one very interesting hormone called osteocalcin.

Good for Bones but Bad for Arteries

Osteocalcin is mostly produced by bone cells called osteoblasts. It’s thought to play a role in the body's metabolic regulation of calcium and is important for bone-building.1 Basically, its primary function is to improve bone density. This is a good thing.

It turns out, however, that osteocalcin is also produced by endothelial cells, which line the inside of your arteries.2 This results in the accumulation of calcium where you don’t want it — within the wall of your arteries. And since calcium is hard, you end up with a “hardened” artery. This is a bad thing.

Well here’s the amazing part of the story. Cranberry extract, traditionally used for urinary tract infections, can prevent calcium accumulation within the artery wall by inhibiting osteocalcin production from young endothelial cells. Now this is very cool research.

Cranberry Antioxidants Decrease Osteocalcin

While no effect was observed on direct endothelial function, usually determined by increased nitric oxide production, results published in the European Journal of Nutrition indicate that cranberry juice may reduce the number of osteocalcin-producing endothelial progenitor cells (these are kind of like stems cells for arteries).2 What this means for you is less calcium build-up within the wall of your arteries.

The lead researcher, Amir Lerman, told Natural News, “Our study demonstrates for the first time a potentially beneficial effect of cranberry juice on endothelial progenitor cells that produce osteocalcin, which is linked to atherosclerotic lesions.”

Dr. Lerman’s team recruited 84 people to participate in their double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. The participants were given either 2 glasses a day of double-strength Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice or a placebo. Then using a cool research technique called Peripheral Arterial Tonometry, blood samples were analyzed for osteocalcin production by endothelial progenitor cells.

The results were pretty clear: Cranberry juice was associated with a reduction in osteocalcin by endothelial progenitor cells. Again, less calcium accumulation within the arterial walls means healthier arteries.

But there’s one thing we don’t like about the study: These juices are usually loaded with sugar. We believe there are healthier ways to consume cranberry antioxidants. Instead, try this healthy cranberry drink.

Recipe: Cranberry Celebration Drink

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces carbonated water
  • 1 ounce cranberry extract
  • 1–2 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Crushed mint
Mix and serve on ice. Enjoy!



Do you have a favorite cranberry drink? Will you be drinking more of it after reading this post? Tell us in the comments!

References

  1. Cell. 2007 Aug 10;130(3):456-69.
  2. Eur J Nutr. 2012 Mar 2. [Epub ahead of print]

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