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Medical Minutes

John Schieszer, author of Medical Minutes
...by John Schieszer

Cranberries Pack Powerful Nutritional Punch
Loaded with vitamin C and fiber, cranberries are much more than a holiday favorite. Studies show that eating cranberries on a regular basis may improve cardiovascular health by improving blood cholesterol levels, lowering blood pressure levels and lowering inflammation. These benefits may help improve blood vessel function and slow plaque formation, which can lead to heart attacks and stroke.

“Cranberries can be a great source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. [However], it is important to look out for added sugar when consuming them in the form of sauces, juices, dried fruit and desserts,” said Jessica Bennett, a dietitian at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

 In 2001, a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry investigated the quantity and quality of antioxidants in fruits and found that cranberries came out on top. The cranberry is one of North America’s three native fruits commercially harvested. Its history can be traced back to this country’s infancy when it was used by the Native Americans to relieve pain. Today, studies suggest that cranberries may reduce the risk of gum disease, stomach ulcers and cancer. A new study concluded that cranberries may help improve the gut microbiome, which is a key protector for human health. An imbalance in the gut microbiota can increase the risk for several chronic diseases.

In general, processing, storage and heating reduces the antioxidant levels in cranberries, therefore, said one researcher, uncooked fruit is the best. On the basis of serving size, 100% pure cranberry juice was found to have the highest antioxidant content. However, most people don’t drink it in this form due to its sour taste. Fresh and dried cranberries have the next highest antioxidant content based on serving size, followed by cranberry sauce. Bennett recommends adding cranberries to smoothies, oatmeal, trail mix, and even popcorn.

Cranberries have a potential drug interaction with warfarin, which is used to control blood clots. It is always best to first talk to your physician about any supplements, including cranberry powders or capsules, because they may interact with other medications.


Sonic Waves for Clearing Coronary Arteries
Some heart centers around the country now are using a novel lithotripsy technology to treat coronary blockages. This new technology is known as intravascular lithotripsy (IVL) and it’s based on the lithotripsy technology used to break up kidney stones. Shockwave technology delivers sonic waves to break-up problematic calcium allowing the blocked artery to safely expand while restoring blood flow through a stent implant.


As coronary artery disease progresses, plaque in the arterial wall often evolves into calcium deposits. These calcium deposits narrow the artery and restrict blood flow. These bone-like structures make the artery rigid and more difficult to reopen with conventional treatments including balloons. IVL uses sonic pressure waves that pass through soft arterial tissue and disrupt calcified plaque by creating a series of micro-fractures. After the calcium has been cracked, the artery can be expanded at low pressure and a stent safely implanted to improve blood flow.


This new coronary technology is becoming more widely available. Interventional cardiologist and structural heart specialist Dr. Rajiv Tayal said the procedure is fairly simple and only involves one night in the hospital. “After 30 years of using the same tools to treat heart disease, Shockwave IVL technology advances our treatment offerings for some of our most complex patient cases. This novel application of lithotripsy reduces the patient’s risk of procedural complications and damage to surrounding tissue in the artery,” said Dr. Tayal, Director of The Valley Hospital’s Cardiac Catherization Laboratory in New Jersey.


High Protein and Low-Calorie Egg White Noodles
Researchers from the Faculty of Allied Health Sciences, Chulalongkorn University in Thailand are pleasing noodle lovers with udon and vermicelli products made from 100% egg whites. These noodles are high in protein, low in fat, gluten-free, and may be suitable for those who wish to control their weight, for older adults, and people with certain diseases, including cancer patients.


Egg white is an excellent source of protein, rich in amino acids that are essential to the body, with no cholesterol. It is also easy to digest. The body can use it to to build muscles and strengthen the immune system. Boiled egg whites are recommended for older adults and individuals with health problems who require high protein, low-fat diets—such as those with kidney disease, diabetes or those wanting to control their weight. However, eating boiled egg whites every day can be boring, and people may stop eating them altogether. Dr. Sathaporn Ngam[1]ukos, the co-founder of Thandee Innofood Company, said these noodles are made with no flour, no gluten, and no preservatives. “More importantly, the noodles don’t taste like boiled eggs because of the technology to coat the egg white with plant-based protein,” said Dr. Ngam-ukos.


The noodles are ready to eat without having to blanch or boil first. They can be eaten right out of the package, or used in either savory or sweet dishes as your creativity could dream up. Apart from rice vermicelli and udon noodles, the team is working on developing more variety of noodle products, as well as other forms of ready-to-eat health foods such as egg white digestive beverages.


Replacing Shots with a 3D-Printed Vaccine
Patch Scientists at Stanford University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have created a 3D-printed vaccine patch that provides greater protection than a typical vaccine shot. The trick is applying the vaccine patch directly to the skin, which is full of immune cells that vaccines target. The resulting immune response from the vaccine patch was 10 times greater than vaccine delivered into an arm muscle with a needle jab, according to a study published by the team of scientists in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


“In developing this technology, we hope to set the foundation for even more rapid global development of vaccines, at lower doses, in a pain-free and anxiety-free manner,” said lead study author and entrepreneur in 3D print technology Joseph M. DeSimone, who is a professor of translational medicine and chemical engineering at Stanford University in California.


While microneedle patches have been studied for decades, the work by Carolina and Stanford overcomes some past challenges, because 3D printing allows the microneedles to be easily customized for various vaccine patches, including flu, measles, hepatitis or COVID-19 vaccines.



John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute. He can be reached at medicalminutes@gmail.com.