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Cholesterol Medication & Cranberry Juice Reactions

By Hannah Rice Myers

The cranberry is a fruit Native Americans used to treat bladder and kidney infections, while early English settlers found it effective for digestive problems, blood disorders and loss of appetite, according to University of Maryland Medical Center. Although some people have concerns about adverse interactions between cranberry juice and cholesterol medications, the opposite may be true. Cranberries might just prove beneficial for cholesterol, while its counterpart, grapefruit juice, may be the fruit of concern.

Understanding Cholesterol

Your body has two primary types of cholesterol -- low-density lipoprotein, LDL, and high-density lipoprotein, HDL. LDL is known as your "bad" cholesterol. In excess amounts, it collects along the walls of your arteries, increasing your risk of atherosclerosis. This disease hardens your arteries, restricting the flow of blood to your heart and brain, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. HDL is your "good" cholesterol and helps prevent your LDL from building in your arteries, explains the American Heart Association. Your LDL must be low, while your HDL must be high.

Cholesterol Medications

The primary treatment for poor cholesterol levels is dietary changes, but some people require the addition of cholesterol medications. Doctors tend to prescribe statins because of their efficacy and lack of side effects. Like any other drug, though, statins have possible side effects, such as joint and muscle pain, or gastrointestinal problems like nausea and abdominal cramping. The American Academy of Family Physicians explains atorvastatin and simvastatin interact adversely with juice, but it is grapefruit juice, not cranberry. The AAFP adds that you can enjoy all other fruit juices, as no evidence exists to show these juices interact with cholesterol medications.

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Dangers of Grapefruit Juice

Grapefruit and their products contain a natural chemical that interfere with the break down of certain medications, such as simvastatin and atorvastatin. The grapefruit causes larger amounts of the medication to stay in your body for a longer period of time, explains Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky. This can increase the severity of the side effects accompanying these drugs, such as muscle pain and weakness. Over time, this can result in the breakdown of muscular cells and tissue.

Benefits of Cranberry

Cranberry and cranberry juice may prevent atherosclerosis by inhibiting the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, according to the Cranberry Institute. Kimberly Beauchamp of the Bastyr Center for Natural Health notes that cranberry juice may also increase your HDL cholesterol. Beauchamp states that men drinking 1 cup of cranberry juice diluted with 1 cup of placebo juice every day for four weeks saw an 8 percent increase of their HDL cholesterol levels.

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