June 3/Lakeville-Middleboro, Mass./PRNewswire -- New data presented at Experimental Biology suggests a double serving of light cranberry juice cocktail can potentially increase artery dilation and blood flow immediately after consumption. Researchers from Tufts University and Boston University collaborated on this study and presented evidence that the natural flavonoids in the juice are absorbed and were responsible for this benefit. Sixty million Americans suffer from cardiovascular disease, and this preliminary study suggests low-calorie cranberry juice may present an effective dietary tool for supporting blood vessel function.

In the preliminary study, researchers administered a double serving of light cranberry juice to patients with coronary artery disease and, over the next several hours, found the juice helped reverse an impairment in blood vessels by increasing their ability to dilate and carry more blood. This impairment in patients with coronary artery disease and those at risk of heart disease is called endothelial dysfunction and is characterized by a constriction of blood vessels that results in elevated blood pressure, which can exacerbate heart problems.

"Our preliminary research found a change in blood flow in response to cranberry consumption -- suggesting improved endothelial function, a key factor in cardiovascular health," said Paul Milbury, Ph.D. of Tufts University. "As consumers are becoming increasingly more health conscious, research has demonstrated cranberries role in supporting urinary tract, stomach, oral and now presents evidence of a role in heart health."

Cranberries contain a greater concentration of antioxidants than other commonly consumed fruit and these nutrients may be working together to offer even greater benefits. The compounds in cranberries seem to have beneficial effects on cholesterol as well as blood pressure and the development of blood clots, all established risk factors for heart disease.

Recent findings support previous studies published in a report in the November 2007 issue of Nutrition Reviews showing that cranberry juice offers a range of different benefits that work to promote cardiovascular health, including increasing circulating levels of the "good" HDL cholesterol. In fact, one such study revealed that a daily serving of light cranberry juice cocktail provided an effect that was similar to what has been reported for red wine, a beverage that has been well publicized for having a positive effect on cardiovascular health.

In addition to an increase in HDL, another study cited in the review reported that cranberry consumption lowered the "bad" LDL cholesterol when consumed in increasing amounts over a period of weeks. Cranberry has also been found to inhibit the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, an effect that has been shown to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease.

From the June 9, 2008, Prepared Foods e-Flash