SUNDAY, April 3, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- In a study in pigs, cranberry juice helped relax blood vessels clogged with high blood cholesterol and narrowed by atherosclerosis, according to a study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine.
The pigs used in the study had a genetic defect -- familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) -- that causes them to develop high blood cholesterol, which in turn causes atherosclerosis and vascular dysfunction. However, some of these pigs were fed cranberry juice powder, made from whole cranberries, for six months and their blood vessels started to function like those in normal pigs.
FH pigs that weren't fed the cranberry powder had much less vascular relaxation than either normal pigs or the FH pigs that ate the cranberry powder.
The study was to be presented Sunday at the Congress of the International Union of Physiological Sciences, in San Diego.
"Since the abnormal functioning of blood vessels is an important component of heart disease, finding ways to improve vascular function in patients with high cholesterol and atherosclerosis is critical to helping protect these patients from consequence such as heart attack or stroke," study lead researcher Kris Kruse-Elliott said in a prepared statement.
"The value of fruits and vegetables in our diet has recently been an area of intense research, and studies like this help us to understand the specific mechanisms by which the nutrients we consume can protect against heart disease," she said.
The research team now plans to determine which components of cranberries are most important in improving vascular relaxation.
The American Heart Association has more about atherosclerosis.