Cranberry Juice Can Increase HDL

A cup a day keeps the cardiologist away?

cranberry juice
cranberry juice. Marc O. Finley/Getty Images

HDL cholesterol - so-called “good cholesterol” - can help to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis by removing cholesterol from the lining of arterial walls. So, raising our blood levels of HDL is a goal many of us should aim for. It appears that regularly drinking cranberry juice may be one way to accomplish this.

HDL is a lipoprotein that transports cholesterol in the bloodstream.

The cholesterol that is attached to HDL - HDL cholesterol - is thought to be cholesterol that has just been removed from tissue, such as the arterial wall, and is being transported back to the liver for processing. So anything that increases the amount of our blood HDL makes more of this lipoprotein available for removing cholesterol from where it should not be.

Cranberry Juice - Not Just For UTIs?

Cranberry juice has been advanced as a healthy addition to our diets for several reasons. There is actually a fair amount of clinical evidence, for instance, that regularly drinking cranberry juice can help prevent urinary tract infections, and that drinking cranberry juice can help cure mild UTIs.

In addition, cranberry juice contains a lot of antioxidants. In animal studies, the antioxidants of cranberry juice have been shown to help prevent certain kinds of cancers, and helps to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.

(Oxidized LDL is very damaging to the walls of blood vessels, and contributes to atherosclerosis).

There is indeed evidence that drinking cranberry juice can substantially increase levels of HDL. A small study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2006 described the effect of cranberry juice consumption on 30 overweight men with elevated LDL cholesterol levels.

For 16 weeks, the men drank increasing amounts of a low-calorie cranberry juice cocktail (up to about 2 cups per day). At the end of this period, these men were found to have significantly increased their HDL levels by about 8%. The researchers attributed the elevation in HDL levels to the flavonoids found in cranberry juice.

So Should You Drink Cranberry Juice For Your HDL?

Since cranberry juice is harmless, drinking the stuff seems like a reasonable idea for anyone looking to raise their HDL levels. If so, the peak effect on HDL in the study just cited was seen with about 1 cup cranberry juice per day. Because cranberry juice is extraordinarily tart, it is difficult to drink (and to find on store shelves) without sweeteners added. The men in this study drank cranberry juice with artificial sweeteners.

It is notable that very little has been published on cranberry juice and HDL levels since this one, small study, and no professional body or group of experts is going to make formal recommendations based on such small evidence.

Still, cranberry juice is pretty harmless - and has other health benefits - so go ahead and give it a try.

If your goal is to increase your HDL levels, however, there are a lot of other things you ought to be doing in addition to drinking cranberry juice, however.

Sources

Ruel G, Pomerleau S, Lemieux S, Lamarche B, Couillard C. Favourable impact of low-calorie cranberry juice consumption on plasma HDL-cholesterol concentrations in men. Br J Nutr. 2006 Aug;96(2):357-64.

Continue Reading