A team of researchers at East Anglia University in the UK have found that eating cranberries improves memory, and could keep dementia at bay.
The team studied the benefits of eating a cup of cranberries a day amongst a group of 50 to 80 year olds. As well as measuring the effects the berries had on memory, the team also looked at how it affected cholesterol.
Lead researcher Dr David Vauzour, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said:
“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.”
Cranberries are known as a superfood, and studies have shown the benefits they have against a variety of health conditions. The fruit is high in antioxidants, and has previously shown to be protective against cancers and beneficial for heart health.
Dr Vauzour recognized their health benefits from previous studies:
“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.
“We wanted to find out more about how cranberries could help reduce age-related neurodegeneration.”
The study lasted for 12 weeks, during which the researchers tested brain function and cholesterol amongst 60 healthy volunteers. Half of the volunteers were given freeze-dried cranberries, equivalent to a cup of fresh cranberries. The other half of the group were given a placebo.
During the 12 week study the participants that ate the cranberries showed significant improvement in memory and neural functioning. They even had improved circulation of nutrients to their brains.
Dr Vauzour said:
“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.”
The participants who ate the cranberries also had improved cholesterol. After completing the trial there was a significant decrease in LDL (also known as bad) cholesterol levels.
Dr Vauzour acknowledged that seeing significant results after just 12 weeks was ‘very encouraging’.
“This establishes an important foundation for future research in the area of cranberries and neurological health.”