Most gastric ulcers are caused by Heliobacter pylori bacteria, which adhere to the lining of the stomach wall. Results from a 2002 in vitro study published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition indicate that cranberry juice may help prevent H. Pylori from adhering to the stomach lining. In this respect, ulcer sufferers may benefit from cranberries in much the same way as those with urinary tract infection.
In 2002, researchers in Jerusalem noted that a mouthwash containing a unique cranberry compound was able to break up the dental plaque formed by a number of oral bacteria and decrease the salivary level of the Streptococcus mutans bacteria that cause tooth decay.
Researchers have studied cranberry’s anti-adherence effects on the virus that causes genital herpes. An article published in the Journal of Science, Food and Agriculture in 2004 shows that the proanthocyanidin A-1, a compound found in cranberries, may prevent the attachment and penetration of the herpes simplex virus. But like cranberry’s effects on the urinary tract, these benefits are only preventive.
Antioxidants and Free Radicals
Scientists now know that air pollution, cigarette smoke, pesticides, contaminated water and even the food we eat produce harmful free radicals in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules that cause damage – or oxidation – to health cells. This damage can impair the proper functioning of the immune system and lead to infections, chronic disease and cancer. Cranberries are a rich source of antioxidants, which can help eliminate harmful free radicals and protect cellular DNA from the oxidative damage and cell mutations that can lead to cancer.
Scientists use the umbrella term bioflavonoids for the many healthful phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables, herbs, grains, legumes and nuts. Bioflavonoids frequently have antioxidant properties, and some have been found to possess antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties as well. Research suggests that cranberry’s many health benefits. Proanthocyanidins are just one of the many bioflavonoids that cranberries contain, but research suggests that they are some of the most beneficial.
Proanthocyanidins are potent antioxidants that occur abundantly in blue, red and purple fruits, with cranberries having one of the highest concentrations. In addition to their antioxidant activity, certain proanthocyanidins offer other benefits for a host of health conditions.
The proanthocyanidins found in cranberries help to increase peripheral circulation and thus may help improve vision. In clinical trials of patients with retinal disease, including macular degeneration, patients given proanthocyanidins show significant improvement. Health professionals monitoring the effect of proanthocyanidins on vision have reported that proanthocyanidins also help in the prevention and treatment of glaucoma.
Preliminary animal studies have produced compelling evidence that the antioxidants in cranberries can help keep the mind sharp and free from neurological damage by fighting free radicals in the brain. Proanthocyanidins are among the few antioxidants that cross the blood/brain barrier, thus helping to protect neural tissue. This may explain why these potent chemicals have helped patients with multiple sclerosis and other nerve disease.