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Cranberries help liver clear more cholesterol out of your blood

Cranberries, those tart red berries that manufacturers add to healthy juices and soft drinks, are good for the heart and blood vessels. Researchers at Cornell University discovered this when they did lab tests on human cells in test tubes. Cranberries prevent the ‘bad’ LDL-cholesterol from oxidising in the blood vessels, a process which causes damage to the walls of the blood vessels and clogs them up. The berries also help the liver to absorb more LDL.

The body transports cholesterol and fats via tiny globules. These are made in the liver, which then passes them on to
the blood. VLDL is the name given to these tiny transporters. In the body, cells and enzymes take off what they need from VLDL. What remains is LDL, the bad kind of cholesterol. Seventy percent of this is absorbed by the adrenals, the testes [in men] or the ovaries [in women] and the liver. The adrenals, the testes and the ovaries convert cholesterol into hormones; the liver converts it into bile. This is a good thing: LDL that remains in the blood vessels oxidises, which damages the blood vessel walls and starts a process that ends up in hardening of the arteries.

[The ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol removes excess cholesterol from the tissues to the liver. HDL reduces the risk of a heart attack, LDL increases it.]

Cranberries may well have a beneficial influence on this process, discovered Yi-Fang Chua and Rui Hai at Cornell. When they added cranberry extract to LDL they saw that this prevented LDL from oxidising. Even more interesting is their discovery that the same extract induces liver cells to make more LDL-receptors. See the graph below.

The liver cells became more sensitive to LDL. They also absorbed more LDL. See the graph below.

"Incorporating cranberries in a balanced diet is thus recommended for dietary modification for the prevention of CVD", the researchers conclude.

This is interesting stuff, but you might also wonder what cranberries do when it comes to producing the LDL-receptor in the testes. If cranberries increase the absorption of LDL in the testes, do they also increase the production of testosterone?

Life Sci. 2005 Aug 26;77(15):1892-901.