Can Drinking Cranberry Juice Lower Cholesterol?

Cranberry consumption, along with other fruits and vegetables, may help improve heart health, including improving cholesterol levels. Cranberry juice is the form of cranberry that's been studied the most, although there's also data on the consumption of cranberry extract supplements to lower cholesterol levels.

Cranberries in a hand
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What You Should Know About Cranberries

Cranberries, also known by the scientific name Vaccinium macrocarpon, are a fruit that can be cooked in many ways in savory or sweet dishes. 

Cranberries are mainly native to the northeastern part of Canada and the United States. Initially used for food and fabric dyes, cranberries were once used to treat infected wounds.

The health effects of cranberries have been studied for several conditions, including their effects on heart health, prevention of dental caries (cavities), urinary tract infections, and stomach ulcers.

Can Cranberries Really Lower Cholesterol?

The heart-healthy benefits of cranberries may have something to do with the phytochemicals they contain. Cranberries contain polyphenols, which are known to reduce inflammation. These chemicals have also been shown to improve cholesterol levels, and cranberries may also improve glucose (sugar) levels.

Unhealthy cholesterol levels, inflammation, and diabetes are all known to contribute to heart disease.

  • Cranberry Juice and Cholesterol: In one study, participants consumed 400 milliliters (mL) of cranberry juice daily for eight weeks. This is about 2 cups of cranberry juice daily. Researchers concluded that participants' cranberry juice consumption boosted their levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) "good" cholesterol.
  • Glucose control. Another study found that participants with type 2 diabetes achieved improved glucose control after consuming a combination of daily cranberry juice (240 mL), along with blueberry extract, for 12 weeks.
  • Supplementation: A large review of studies found that cranberry supplementation in juice form may help improve blood pressure, body mass index, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), "bad cholesterol. Because it was a large review, specific amounts and duration vary.

Consumption of cranberry juice hasn't been shown to affect triglyceride levels. It may slightly reduce oxidized LDL, but the effects of this on the body are not known.

Should You Incorporate Cranberries Into Your Diet to Lower Cholesterol?

Cranberries are a healthy, low-fat food that can enhance any cholesterol-lowering diet. After checking with your doctor, enjoy cranberries in any way that appeals to you.

Watch out for high sugar levels in cranberry juice, because this can increase your glucose levels and cause weight gain. Make sure that the cranberry juice you select is pure juice, without any added sugars.

Keep in mind that additional studies are needed to increase scientific understanding of the effects of cranberry consumption on cholesterol levels and heart health. So, although cranberries are a healthy fruit and appear to help with lowering cholesterol levels, you should not rely solely on them for that purpose. 

Risks Associated With Cranberries

Drinking large amounts of cranberry juice might cause stomach upset, and over time it might increase your risk of kidney stones. If you are taking warfarin, a blood thinner, the levels may be affected by large doses of cranberry, so you should discuss that with your doctor.

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