Cranberries and Their Bioactive Constituents in Human Health

Access to the scientific review, which was published in Advances in Nutrition, is brought to you free of charge through the support of The Cranberry Institute. The Cranberry Institute is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1951 to further the success of cranberry growers and the industry in the Americas through health, agricultural and environmental stewardship research as well as cranberry promotion and education. The Cranberry Institute is funded voluntarily by Supporting Members that handle, process, and sell cranberries. Supporting Members are represented in national and international regulatory matters and research efforts are done on their behalf.

RDs recognize that the daily consumption of a variety of fruits is necessary to achieve a healthful dietary pattern, meet recommendations for micronutrient intake, and promote the intake of diverse phytochemicals. Berry fruit, including cranberries, represent a rich source of phenolic bioactives that may play an important role in human health. 

Recent observational and clinical studies have raised interest in the potential health effects of cranberry consumption, mainly due to the berries’ phenolic bioactives. The profile of cranberry bioactives is distinct from that of other berry fruit, being rich in A-type proanthocyanidins (PACs) in contrast to the B-type PACs present in most other fruit.

Basic research has suggested numerous potential mechanisms of action of cranberry bioactives, although further molecular studies are necessary. Human studies on the health effects of cranberry products have focused principally on urinary tract and cardiovascular health, with some research also directed at oral health and gastrointestinal epithelia.

These materials supplement the scientific review “Cranberries and Their Bioactive Constituents in Human Health,” published in the international journal Advances in Nutrition, and provide RDs with the opportunity to further examine the information contained in the review.

Ten international experts in cranberry and health research contributed to the article, including scientists and medical experts from Tufts University in Boston, Penn State University, Boston University, Rutgers University in New Jersey, the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, and Heinrich-Heine University in Germany. The authors examined more than 150 published research studies to create the most thorough and up-to-date review of the cranberry nutrition and human health research. 

RDs and DTRs can record one half (0.5) CPEU as Activity Type 200, Professional Reading, after reading this journal article.

Learning Objectives

After reviewing these materials, RDs should be better able to do the following:

  1. Identify cranberries’ bioactive composition and content.
  2. Differentiate the effects of the phenolic compounds in cranberries from those associated with other berry fruit. 
  3. Describe how the phytochemicals found in cranberries promote a healthy urinary tract and may protect against bacterial infections.
  4. Identify the various mechanisms that may account for cranberry consumption’s favorable effects on cardiovascular disease.
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