Prepared Foods'July 11, 2005, e-newsletter

In the first human study of its kind, researchers demonstrated that drinking approximately two cups of cranberry juice per day may destroy the bacteria responsible for certain types of ulcers.

Since these ulcers are a leading precursor to stomach cancer, this preliminary study suggests regular cranberry consumption could be a helpful preventative measure against the second-most-common form of cancer worldwide.

One of the primary causes of gastric ulcers is a bacterial infection caused by Helicobacter pylori. The presence of this organism can easily be detected by a breath test, which is how this team of researchers identified subjects for the study and measured results. In this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, approximately 14% of the participants who were consuming a cranberry juice beverage on a daily basis tested negative for H. pylori after 35 days, versus 5% from the placebo group.

The research team from the School of Oncology, Peking University, Beijing Institute for Cancer Research, China, published their study in a recent issue of the journal Helicobacter. Results from this study and previous studies suggest that cranberry consumption suppresses H. pylori infection.

Martin Starr, Ph.D., science advisor to the Cranberry Institute, viewed these research results from a global health perspective. "Over 80% of adults in developing countries and 20% to 50% of adults in industrialized countries are infected by H. pylori. Finding a natural, cost-effective means of reducing these bacteria could significantly reduce the prevalence of ulcers and gastric cancer and definitely warrants additional research."

H. pylori infections are generally treated with a combination of antibiotics. In some cases, the bacteria become resistant, calling for a more aggressive type of treatment that often produces moderate-to-severe side effects. Cranberries have already been shown to be effective in helping eliminate antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that cause urinary tract infections, so they may provide another line of defense against H. pylori without producing the adverse side effects. This same bacteria-blocking mechanism may also play a role in preventing certain oral health problems, including diseases of the gums and teeth.