MADISON, Wisconsin, May
6, 2005 (ENS): Compounds that occur naturally in cranberries
have been found to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes
in pigs and may do the same for humans, researchers at the University
of Wisconsin-Madison have found.
Early results from studies indicate that feeding cranberry juice
powder seems to relax and open blood vessels in pigs that are genetically
susceptible to developing atherosclerosis, or clogged arteries.
Kris Kruse-Elliott, a veterinary anesthesiologist at the UW-Madison
School of Veterinary Medicine, presented her results at the American
Physiological Society's annual meeting in San Diego in April.
Kruse-Elliott and co-researcher Jess Reed, a nutritionist in the
Department of Animal Sciences, set out to evaluate various whole
foods that contain antioxidants, flavonoids and polyphenols, all
compounds that may protect against heart disease.
Cranberries contain all three, so they fed cranberry juice powder
to pigs that were genetically predisposed to develop high cholesterol
and atherosclerosis, just as some humans are.
"When these pigs were fed cranberry juice powder made from
whole cranberries for six months, their vessels acted more like
normal pigs," Kruse-Elliott says, meaning that the pigs' blood
vessels relaxed and opened more.
Abnormal blood vessel function is an important component of heart
disease. Finding ways to improve vessel function in patients with
high cholesterol and atherosclerosis is critical to helping protect
these patients from heart attacks or strokes.
"The next step is to determine what specific components of
cranberries are most important to the improvements in vascular function
that we observed, exactly how they modify blood vessel relaxation,
and how they can be most easily consumed as part of the diet,"