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Cranberry becoming a science-based ingredient

Fruit dOr Nutraceuticals cranberries
The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia’s newly published 96-page monograph on cranberry fruit acknowledges recent advancements in cranberry testing for authenticity, standardization and efficacy.

An innovative new mass spectrometer can analyze the health benefits of cranberries, standardize their use and ensure their efficacy.

Fruit d'Or Nutraceuticals

The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia’s newly published 96-page monograph on cranberry fruit acknowledges recent advancements in cranberry testing for authenticity, standardization and efficacy. Fruit D’Or Nutraceuticals is the first cranberry supplier to use the protocols detailed in this monograph. 

“This is a turning point for the cranberry industry. The monograph showcases the future of cranberry, which is poised to become the next superberry,” said Stephen Lukawski, director of sales and business development for Fruit d’Or Nutraceuticals. “For the industry, new analytical tools open the door to new science. For consumers, this is about delivering standardization and efficacy. It is critical to confirm that the product they’re taking contains cranberry and that it actually works. The monograph enables us to do that.”

It’s no longer just about the juice

The nutraceutical cranberry industry was established on the power of the fruit’s soluble proanthocyanidins (PACs), found in the juice. The more recent discovery of cranberry’s insoluble PACs presented an opportunity to showcase this fruit’s power beyond its anti-adhesion/urinary tract benefits.

“Cranberry juice powders contain only soluble PACs. With new testing measures, we can now look at the health implications of insoluble PACs, such as oral, gut, cardio, prostate and vaginal health,” Lukawski said.  

The different cranberry components — the seeds, skin and juice — all have different biomarkers. The monograph describes new tools and tests that are available for the first time for cranberry’s insoluble PACs. Researcher Christian G. Krueger of Complete Phytochemical Solutions, LLC, has introduced the methods for measuring cranberry’s insoluble PACs and developed reference standards.

Through the publication of the AHP monograph, those testing methods are now shared openly so laboratories across the country can conduct continued research and testing on cranberry’s insoluble PACs.

One of the most exciting innovations the monograph recognizes is the matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS). This tool authenticates PACs, addressing adulteration issues and allowing product manufacturers to determine shelf-life based on PAC stability. Its use will ultimately lead to higher consumer confidence.

The mass spectrometer can authenticate and standardize bioactive compounds such as PACs, which are directly responsible for a product's health benefits, according to Krueger.

"The MALDI-TOF MS can reveal a truer representation of what’s inside the raw materials. The development and use of new analytical tools has significantly broadened our foundational understanding of the individual cranberry components. These tools are major breakthroughs for efficacy and authenticity,” Krueger said.

“We are able to understand the matrix of the whole cranberry, and its different components, where we were unable to do so before. Using these valuable tools, dried cranberry juice will analyze differently than an all-organic cranberry powder. These differences are reflected in the unique fingerprints of each product type. We have isolated the natural cranberry PACs. This information is now used as a calibrating method to support mass spectrometry, and to improve the accuracy of standardization and quantification.”

Where this is leading

Cranberry will vary from lot to lot because it is affected by every phase of the growing and manufacturing process, including drying and milling. That’s why it is so important to do a fingerprint analysis on the starting material, then link that to its bioefficacy and standardization.

With the identification of insoluble PACs, it is now possible to standardize the potency of cranberry so that the percentage of soluble and insoluble PACs is known, and to create a minimum standard for the starting raw material.

“Transparency and traceability are the key factors in farm-to-finish products,” Lukawski said. “This testing will enable the nutraceutical industry to help growers understand the importance of harvesting and drying procedures, if they are to provide us with a quality product.”

“With standardization, we can link biomarkers to chemistry, which then link to efficacy. To date, Fruit D’Or is the first fruit botanical company to complete all three linkages, including conducting repeat studies. By doing so, Fruit D’Or has taken cranberry from a commodity to a science-based ingredient,” he said.

The new monograph signals an opportunity to clean up the cranberry industry. These tools and benchmarks are the keys to the industry’s future. “We’re at the prime time in the cranberry industry. Adulteration and authentication are top concerns,” Lukawski said. “No single test method or piece of equipment is the answer. Rather, we’re looking to build on the strengths of current science. The [National Science Foundation’s] DNA sequential barcoding for species identification is one pillar, and the MALDI-TOF MS for authentication of the bioactive ingredients is the other. Both are needed to strengthen the cranberry industry. For example, the MALDI-TOF can quantify PAC adulterants from other source ingredients, such as grape seed, which DNA sequential barcoding can’t do.”

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