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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 810: IX International Vaccinium Symposium

UPDATE ON HEALTH BENEFITS OF CRANBERRY AND BLUEBERRY

Author:   A.B. Howell
Keywords:   Vaccinium macrocarpon, Vaccinium corymbosum, Vaccinium angustifolium medicinal, health
DOI:   10.17660/ActaHortic.2009.810.104
Abstract:
Cranberries and blueberries are native to North America and have a rich folklore history of medicinal uses by the Native American Indians. Many of the uses, once thought to be anecdotal, are now the subject of intensive scientific research. Cranberry juice consumption has been shown clinically to prevent urinary tract infections, however until recently, the effect was thought to be due to acidification of the urine. Research suggests that specific compounds in cranberry called proanthocyanidins act to inhibit bacterial adherence to the uroepithelium, preventing subsequent colonization and urinary tract infection. Elucidation of the chemical structures of the cranberry proanthocyanidins reveals the presence of less common A-type, double interflavanoid linkages. Most proanthocyanidin-containing foods, such as grape and chocolate, have B-type, single interflavanoid linkages. Research suggests the A-type linkage may be important in eliciting anti-adhesion bioactivity. The role of cranberry proanthocyanidins in preventing bacterial adhesion will be reviewed, as well as the emerging research into the benefits of cranberry on markers for heart disease and cancer. Research on blueberries, which originally focused on antioxidant activity, has now expanded into the areas of anti-inflammation, and cell signaling. Much of the research involves the effects of blueberry on age-related mental decline, including cognitive and motor functions. Increases in functionality have been observed in animal and human trials following consumption of blueberries. Blueberries are known for their broad array of phytochemicals, especially flavonoids. Although attention has been focused on the anthocyanin pigments, the compounds responsible for the various medicinal activities have not been fully elucidated, and could include several different classes of polyphenolics.

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