Diabetes mellitus is a chronic condition in which the body does not produce or does not use insulin effectively. It is not simply hyperglycemia, or too much glucose (sugar) in the blood. Ninety percent of individuals with diabetes have type 2 (NIDDM, non-insulin independent diabetes). Most of these individuals are over 40 years old. Heart disease is the leading cause of diabetes-related deaths, with adults having two to four times higher heart disease death rates than adults without the disease. Patients with diabetes develop more atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) than people without diabetes, and some 60-65 percent of patients with diabetes have high blood pressure.

Treatment for patients with type 2 diabetes includes diet, exercise, and drug therapy. Diet is considered to be the first treatment to try. Maintaining ideal body weight can help the patient to control the disease. Exercise can help the insulin that is available to work better and help regulate glucose production in the liver. Even with diet and exercise, however, within the first five years after diagnosis, over 60 percent of patients will need oral antidiabetic drugs. It is also estimated that approximately 40 percent of patients will eventually need insulin injections to control their blood sugar.

Cranberry fruit juice is recommended by both grandmothers and health care professionals for individuals with urinary tract infections, with research supporting folk uses. Cranberry is a close relative of the American blueberry and European bilberry. It has been used for centuries in cooking and as a garnish. Researchers are finding cranberry to be an effective antioxidant, thereby, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and regulating blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes.

A recent study included 13 people with type 2 diabetes to determine whether low-sugar dried cranberries would provide healthier glycemic and insulin responses. The study included 13 people with type 2 diabetes who were then randomly assigned to receive a single serving of white bread (57g, 160 calories, 1 g fiber), raw cranberries (55g, 21 calories, 1 g fiber), sweetened dried cranberries-original (40g, 138 calories, 2.1g fiber), or the low-sugar high-fiber sweetened cranberries (40g; 113 calories, 1.8g fiber plus 10g polydextrose). The results revealed that consumption of the low-sugar, high-fiber, sweetened dried cranberries led to better glucose peaks and lower insulin peaks, with a peak insulin of 15, compared to 22 for both bread and sweetened cranberries, while raw cranberries produced a peak of 10. It was also found that blood sugar levels peaked at 158 minutes, compared to 175 minutes for both the bread and sweetened cranberries, and 127 minutes for raw cranberries. Fiber is a key component lacking in the diet of many people with type 2 diabetes, but with the added fiber in these low-sugar cranberries, glucose appears to absorb more slowly, which helps regulate blood sugar. The researchers concluded that the combination of less sugar and high fiber could be of benefit to type 2 diabetics.1

1 Wilson T, Morcomb EF, Schmidt TP, et al. Glycemic response of type 2 diabetics to sweetened dried cranberries. FAESEB J. July2009;23:900.