Adding cranberries to your diet, particularly in the middle age, could help improve memory and brain function, and lower ‘bad’ cholesterol, according to new research that highlights the neuroprotective potential of cranberries.
The results, published in the Frontiers in Nutrition, showed that consuming cranberries significantly improved the participants’ – 50 to 80-year-olds – memory of everyday events (visual episodic memory), neural functioning, and delivery of blood to the brain (brain perfusion).
Further, the participants also exhibited a significant decrease in LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol levels, known to contribute to atherosclerosis – the thickening or hardening of the arteries caused by a build-up of plaque in the inner lining of an artery.
This supports the idea that cranberries can improve vascular health and may in part contribute to the improvement in brain perfusion and cognition, said the researchers at University of East Anglia, UK.
According to the team, the study is one of the first to examine cranberries and their long-term impact on cognition and brain health in humans.
The findings could have implications for the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.
“Dementia is expected to affect around 152 million people by 2050. There is no known cure, so it is crucial that we seek modifiable lifestyle interventions, such as diet, that could help lessen disease risk and burden,” said lead researcher Dr. David Vauzour, from the varsity.
Past studies have shown that higher dietary flavonoid intake is associated with slower rates of cognitive decline and dementia. And foods rich in anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins, which give berries their red, blue, or purple colour, have been found to improve cognition.
Cranberries are rich in these micronutrients and have been recognised for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
The team investigated the impact of eating cranberries for 12 weeks on brain function and cholesterol among 60 cognitively healthy participants.
Half of the participants consumed freeze-dried cranberry powder, equivalent to a cup or 100g of fresh cranberries, daily. The other half consumed a placebo.
“We found that the participants who consumed the cranberry powder showed significantly improved episodic memory performance in combination with improved circulation of essential nutrients such as oxygen and glucose to important parts of the brain that support cognition — specifically memory consolidation and retrieval,” Vauzour said.