May 17/Lakeville-Middleboro, Mass./Business Wire -- Recent results reported at Experimental Biology 2012 continue to build on the growing body of research on the cranberry's key role in total body health.

With 15 million urinary tract infection (UTI) cases in the U.S. annually, a new study from Jeffrey Blumberg at Tufts University evaluates the cranberry's role in promoting urinary tract health through compounds known as proanthocyanidins (PACs). The study confirmed the presence of unmetabolized PACs in the urinary tract after consumption, supporting a wealth of existing ex vivo research that highlights the potential benefits of the compounds found in cranberry juice.

While the benefits of cranberry juice are well-documented, a pilot study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests dried cranberries can provide the same benefits attributed to the reduction of recurring UTIs in women. In this study, women consuming one serving of dried cranberries per day for two weeks reported reduced urinary tract infections up to six months after the study. UTIs account for 15% of all community-prescribed antibiotics at a cost of $500 million in prescription drug costs each year.

"There is significant evidence surrounding the cranberry's unique health properties and contribution to total body health," said Susan Percival, Ph.D., professor, Food Science & Human Nutrition, University of Florida, Gainesville. "While many people associate cranberry juice with improved urinary tract health, a growing number of new studies point to the cranberry's exceptional ability to support immunity."

Percival and her research team examined immunity in a cell culture model to understand the mechanisms of how cranberries may improve immunity. A previous human interventional study found immune cell enhancement was evident after eight weeks of consuming cranberry beverages. In the current study, they found that compounds in cranberries can help prime the immune system for activity, which can help protect the body's cells from a challenge. This is correlated with the amount of cranberry compounds used in the study.

"We have previously shown that people have fewer symptoms of colds and flu after cranberry consumption and that immune cell function is improved. Now, with this new model, we hope to learn the molecular reasons for the improvement," added Percival.

According to the USDA, cranberries have more naturally occurring polyphenolic antioxidants per gram than other common fruit. Cranberries promote the activity of the body's natural antioxidant enzymes, which act to prevent the formation of damaging radicals. The study done by the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth examines this effect of promoting enzymic activity and finds a potential for health benefits because the effect of this increased enzyme activity is a generally lower inflammatory state of the body.

Researchers at Washington State University also explored the activities of these enzymes after subjects drank one of two different cranberry beverages or a placebo. Subjects consuming either cranberry beverage had significantly increased levels of the important antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) compared with the placebo. These two studies suggest that consuming cranberries may have protective effects on health by maintaining cellular health.

 From the May 21, 2012, Prepared Foods’ Daily News