Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Cranberries

The Today show featured a short segment on cranberries and bogs. The announcer really wanted the cranberry grower to explain how the whole bog thing works, but all he could do was point out some short bushes with little red berries. Left hanging on the vine was the question of how one goes from there to the picturesque water filled bogs. I wondered the same thing myself, so here's what I found out about cranberries. They're really interesting berries. (I still don't think they taste particularly good!). The berries are harvested by flooding the field they're grown in (a bog that has peaty, acidic soil) and then agitating the water with this device to loosen the berries. The floating berries are then sluiced from the surface.

Cranberries are native to New England and grow well in acidic soil (just like azaleas & rhododendrons). The name is probably a variation on the colonial "crane berry" so named because the flowers resemble the sand cranes that could be seen eating them. The Ocean Spray company produces 90% of the world's supply, grown in northern climates (MA, WA, OR, BC) only because milder climates create problems with fungus.

Cranberries are also well known for promoting urinary tract health. And, it's not all hype. In 2002, JAMA reported a study that suggests persistent urinary tract infections that are resistant to antibiotics could be prevented by drinking cranberry juice. The researchers found that cranberry juice prevents 80% of bacteria from attaching to the cells of the urinary tract. These anti-adhesion effects have been isolated to compounds called proanthocyanidins - yep, a cyanide relative. Cranberry juice is a real, viable alternative to participating in the evolution of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Speaking of that, recently my Newfie puppy had to visit the vet for what they labeled a bladder infection. They allegedly did a test that showed she did have an infection, and of course, sent us home with antibiotic pills. She still dribbles. So, now I'm thinking it wouldn't hurt to put her on a cranberry juice routine. She may not like the tart treat as much as she enjoyed that peanut butter pills, but maybe it would be a good long-term solution.

The Cranberry Institute reports that the bacteria that cause periodontal gum disease are also sensitive to cranberry juice. That seems like good reason enough to drink the stuff, but did you know that blueberries are just as good?

Blueberries, in addition to having the anti-adhesion properties of cranberries, also have anti-proliferation capacity. They prevent cancer cells from replicating. Cool.

And, blueberries taste much better!

The Rutgers Blueberry and Cranberry Research Center is working to breed berries that have higher concentrations of medicinal properties.

5 comments:

Daphne said...

I LOVE craisins, the dried version of cranberries! Mmmmmm.... you should try them sometime. I could eat a whole entire bag all by myself...

Before you try the cranberry route you may want to do a bit of research. I know that raisins and grapes have been directly linked to kidney failure in dogs, and I've also heard that garlic may have negative effects on their health as well. So I would be cautious about adding certain fruits to a dog's diet.

That being said I did a little research on Dr. Foster and Smith's website- they have a supplement called Urinary Acidifier that is supposed to up the acidity in urine and therefore make a less inviting environment for bacteria growth. The reviews have been favorable (it got high marks for effectiveness and palatability), might be something to try, I'll email you the link. You get 100 tablets for $10 which I imagine is a good bit cheaper than the doggie meds she is eating now!

Anonymous said...

I'm impressed that there's such a thing as a Blueberry and Cranberry Research Center that does health research in addition to the usual pest management work. Pretty cool!

Maybe we should resume drinking that Tru Blu stuff!

I dunno about the dogs, but I'm sure they'd like some oranges...

Rhea said...

Very interesting. I live in Boston and have visited the cranberry bogs in the area. Have you ever had unsweetened cranberry juice? This is, like, 14 on the tartness meter.

Anonymous said...

Sudafed! It is the answer to spayed female dog pee-pee dribbles. Incontinence - bouts of it - is VERY common in spayed female dogs and often is misdiagnosed as bladder infection. They usually do a pee test and tell you that the dogs (can't remember which color is bad) blood count is up and that you can (1) do a course of antibiotics or(2) try a bladder control pill. Then they give you a bill for $89. OR...for $6 you can buy a box of sudafed (yes, for people) and give her one pill in the am and one at night for three days then just one in the morning for three more and BAM! problem solved. I know of which I speak....Miss Mastiff goes through this a couple times a year.

Holly said...

That's really interesting about the Sudafed. huh! Would have never thought.