Typically, cranberry juice is thought of as a home health remedy to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs). But research indicates that cranberry juice may also promote lower blood pressure levels. Cranberries provide a wide variety of natural plant flavonoids that are connected to reduced risk of heart attack.
A caveat: These study results are preliminary, and more research needs to be conducted. The study, funded by Ocean Spray Cranberries, was published as an abstract and the results have not yet been peer-reviewed and published in a journal.
The study was led by Janet Novotny, a research physiologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. During the study, 56 participants drank either an eight-ounce glass of low-calorie sweetened placebo drink or an eight-ounce low-calorie cranberry juice twice a day. The diet of participants was controlled to maintain body weight during the trial. The research center provided meals to reduce variation among the participants’ dietary intake. This was a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial–meaning that neither the participants nor the researchers knew which participants were receiving the cranberry juice and which consumed the sweetened placebo drink.
After eight weeks, participants drinking cranberry juice had an average decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure of 3 mm Hg each. Participants receiving the placebo experienced no decrease in blood pressure. Researchers point out that this 3 mm Hg drop in BOTH systolic and diastolic blood pressure is relevant since most food intervention studies result in a decrease in systolic blood pressure only.
Researchers said it’s important to note that "low-calorie" cranberry juice was used. Regular cranberry juice tends to be high in calories and added sugar. The sugar is used to make the tart berries more palatable.
A decrease of 3 mm Hg is not a large drop, but it is a decrease, and additional research must be conducted to verify these results. However, if you are working to lower blood pressure, adding low-calorie cranberry juice to your diet may be a healthy addition, particularly if you use the cranberry juice to replace less nutritious beverages.
Lisa Nelson RD, a registered dietitian since 1999, provides clients step-by-step guidance to lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure, so they can live life and enjoy their family for years to come. Because her own health is the foundation of her expertise, you can trust that Lisa will make it truly possible for you to see dramatic changes in your health, without unrealistic fads or impossibly difficult techniques. She can be found on Twitter @lisanelsonrd and Facebook at hearthealthmadeeasy.