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|Emma McGowan NatureCity author & contributor|
Atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries, occurs when fat, cholesterol and other substances build up in the walls of the arteries and form hard structures called plaques. A study published March 2, 2012, in the European Journal of Nutrition suggests that a couple glasses of cranberry juice a day could help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis.
The researchers, based at the Mayo Clinic in the United States, worked with 84 volunteers with an average age of 49.5. Over the course of the 4 month, double-blind, randomized, controlled trial the volunteers consumed two glasses of either double-strength Ocean Spray light cranberry juice or a placebo drink.
The researchers examined how the blood vessels reacted to the drinks using peripheral arterial tonometry and took blood samples to search for biomarkers of endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs)..
No difference in endothelial function was found between the two groups, However, the cranberry juice group saw a reduction in the amount of osteocalcin the cells produced. When endothelial cells produce osteocalcin, it results in the accumulation of calcium in the artery walls, leading to hardened arteries.
The heart health benefits of cranberries can probably be attributed to their high polyphenol count. Polyphenols are the powerful antioxidants found in plant foods, tea, coffee and chocolate. They have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-carcinogenic properties.
Cranberries are packed with beneficial natural vitamins, minerals, dietary fibers and antioxidants. Previous studies have shown that they may reduce the risk of urinary tract infections, reduce plaque formation on teeth and improve cholesterol levels.
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