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Cranberries, a native fruit investigated.

In the 1960's, the introduction of flavorful cranberry juice beverages helped build a new, year-round use for the berry. These pleasant blends balanced the cranberry's naturally tart flavor with the sweetness of other favorite fruits such as apples and pears. In the 1990's, the launch of dried, sweetened cranberries, which look somewhat like little red raisins, brought new attention to the colorful fruit.

Cranberries are rich in fiber and low in sodium, and they provide vitamin C and potassium. They also contain intriguing natural compounds referred to as flavonoids, polyphenols, or, more generally, phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are of ongoing interest to nutrition and medical researchers worldwide. For instance, cranberry phytochemicals have been the focus of a series of studies by chemist Ronald L. Prior and colleagues. Formerly with the Agricultural Research Service at the Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center in Little Rock, he is now an Adjunct Professor of Food Science at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. In one investigation, Dr. Prior and collaborators examined the kinds and amounts of phytochemicals in cranberry pomace--the stems, skin, and pulp that are left when the plump berries are pressed to make juice or canned products. "Cranberry processors are looking for new, value-added uses of these byproducts," says Dr. Prior.

Knowing more about the polyphenols in pomace might lead to new ways to build new markets for it. Much is already known about the major polyphenols in fresh cranberries, but the Arkansas study is apparently one of the first to extensively investigate and document the kinds and amounts of major cranberry-pomace polyphenols.

The researchers used several sophisticated analytical procedures, including high-performance liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry. These procedures can measure the molecular weight of pomace constituents; from that, the investigators can determine their identity. The scientists determined that the pomace contained "appreciable levels" of flavonols, a class of polyphenols that includes quercetin and myricetin.

Fresh whole cranberries are already known to contain higher levels of flavonols than are present in most other berries and, in fact, more than in most fruits or vegetables. The research was the first to show that nearly half of the total flavonol content of whole berries was left behind in the pomace instead of making its way into juice.

The findings are a useful, readily accessible reference for medical and nutrition researchers, food processors, and others.

(Sources: Agricultural Research, August 2012; Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, April 2010.)
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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Dec 22, 2011
Words:399
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