What Cranberry Juice Can Do for Your Heart

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This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.

A study finds that drinking two glasses of cranberry juice each day can without a doubt improve heart health. The discovery builds on previous research showing cranberries are plentiful in the type of polyphenols that are linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.

Cranberry Juice Reduces Risk Factors for Disease

In a double-blind study led by Janet Novotny, an Agricultural Research Service physiologist at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Maryland, 56 people were given either a glass of cranberry juice or a liquid placebo at breakfast and dinner. The contents and size of all the meals consumed by the participants were identical.

After eight weeks, the results showed that the juice decreased five of 22 risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), stroke and diabetes. The reductions included C-reactive protein (44 percent), triglycerides (8 percent), glucose (2 percent), blood pressure (3 percent) and a measurement of insulin resistance (3 percent).

Elevated levels of C-reactive proteins and triglycerides may be linked to a higher risk of CVD. High blood pressure increases the likelihood of stroke, while raised insulin resistance increases the risk of diabetes. Prior research shows a connection between cranberry juice and improved heart health, but the study is the first to show the benefit in a diet-controlled double-bind clinical trial, which is viewed as the gold standard in scientific experiments.

Earlier Studies: Cranberry Juice Improves Blood Flow and Cholesterol

A small 2015 study presented at the Cranberry Health Research Conference tested the effects of two cups of cranberry juice on the heart function of 10 men. The results showed an improvement in blood flow, blood pressure and arterial stiffness. Because of the efficacy in boosting blood flow, the researchers concluded the juice has value in decreasing the likelihood of atherosclerosis, a disorder that stems from a buildup of plaque in the arteries.

If two glasses of cranberry juice per day is beneficial, what would be the effects of three glasses per day? Research presented at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in 2003 put it to the test and found it boosted levels of HDL or good cholesterol by an average of 10 percent, which corresponds to a 40 percent lowering of heart disease risk. In addition, two to three servings raised the quantities of antioxidants in the blood by as much as 121 percent.

How to Purchase Cranberry Juice

Most of the cranberry juice cocktail blends you find in the supermarket are diluted with water and other juices as well as contain sugar or artificial sweeteners. Look for organic cranberries at local farmers’ markets or organic cranberry juice from health food stores. This will ensure you are getting fruit that is pesticide-free and GMO-free.

See also: Cranberry-Lime Spritzer recipe

Heart disease is the top cause of death in the U.S., being responsible for 610,000 fatalities each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drinking cranberry juice should be added to the list of healthful lifestyle practices that can reduce the risk of the illness. These include eating a diet plentiful in fruits and vegetables, getting regular exercise, managing stress, losing weight, quitting smoking and drinking alcohol only in moderation.

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