Recent observational and clinical studies have raised interest in the potential health effects of cranberry consumption, an association that appears to be due to the phytochemical content of this fruit. The profile of cranberry bioactives is distinct from that of other berry fruit, being rich in A-type proanthocyanidins (PACs) in contrast to the B-type PACs present in most other fruit. Basic research has suggested a number of potential mechanisms of action of cranberry bioactives, although further molecular studies are necessary. Human studies on the health effects of cranberry products have focused principally on urinary tract and cardiovascular health, with some attention also directed to oral health and gastrointestinal epithelia. Evidence suggesting that cranberries may decrease the recurrence of urinary tract infections is important because a nutritional approach to this condition could lower the use of antibiotic treatment and the consequent development of resistance to these drugs. There is encouraging, but limited, evidence of a cardioprotective effect of cranberries mediated via actions on antioxidant capacity and lipoprotein profiles. The mixed outcomes from clinical studies with cranberry products could result from interventions testing a variety of products, often uncharacterized in their composition of bioactives, using different doses and regimens, as well as the absence of a biomarker for compliance to the protocol. Daily consumption of a variety of fruit is necessary to achieve a healthy dietary pattern, meet recommendations for micronutrient intake, and promote the intake of a diversity of phytochemicals. Berry fruit, including cranberries, represent a rich source of phenolic bioactives that may contribute to human health.
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