Every day should be Thanksgiving, in the sense of acknowledging life’s many blessings. Unfortunately for some, every day has turned into Thanksgiving insofar as high-calorie, high-fat meals have become the norm instead of a rare, occasional indulgence. The result is widening waistlines and rising health care costs. To confront the obesity epidemic, science is hunting down compounds that may inhibit weight gain, and one of them — a flavonoid called rutin — is found in that beloved seasonal staple, the cranberry.

Researchers from the University of Southern Queensland in Australia fed rats the equivalent of a Thanksgiving feast for four months. Halfway through some of the rats had a small amount of rutin mixed into their chow. The results were remarkable. Though overall caloric intake was the same, the rutin rats gained 116% less weight than those on the straight high-fat fare. The amount of fat gained abdominally was 83% lower in the rutin rats — who also enjoyed 29% less increase in cholesterol and 15% less increase in blood pressure. More details are spelled out in the chart below:

 Measurement High-calorie diet (no rutin)  Rutin effect
 Body weight  125% increase  Only a 9% increase
 Abdominal circumference  15% greater  3% less
 Abdominal fat weight  99% greater  Only 16% greater
 Blood cholesterol  43% increase  Only 14% increase
 Blood oxidative stress marker  18% higher  Only 2% higher
 Liver weight  16% greater  Only 4% greater
 Blood pressure  17% higher  Only 2% higher


While more research is needed to confirm whether rutin might afford similar protection among humans, mounting evidence already points to other benefits of eating more rutin-containing fruit and vegetables. Cranberries are believed to inhibit UTIs, but preliminary research suggests their active proanthocyanidins may also help suppress herpes outbreaks. A cup of cranberries supplies 25% daily vitamin C, plus 20% of both manganese and fiber. 

Published November 1, 2011