The berry that could stave off dementia and improve brain function

May 22, 2022
UEA’s Norwich Medical School Lead Researcher, Dr David Vauzour said "we wanted to find out more about how cranberries could help reduce age-related neurodegeneration". Source: Getty Images.

A new study from the University of East Anglia (UEA) has found that introducing a few cranberries into your diet can help improve memory and brain function, with the findings offering hope of preventing neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.

The Chronic Consumption of Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) for 12 Weeks Improves Episodic Memory and Regional Brain Perfusion in Healthy Older Adults: A Randomised, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel-Groups Feasibility Study is the first of its kind in examining the impact cranberries have on brain health. Over a 12 week period, researchers studied the benefits of consuming the equivalent of a cup of cranberries among 60 subjects aged between 50 and 80 years old.

Half of the participants consumed freeze-dried cranberry powder daily while the other half consumed a placebo.

UEA’s Norwich Medical School Lead Researcher, Dr David Vauzour said “we wanted to find out more about how cranberries could help reduce age-related neurodegeneration”.

“Cranberries are rich in these micronutrients and have been recognized for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,” he said.

“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.”

The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, concluded that consuming cranberries improved the participants’ memory of day to day events, neural function and also improved the delivery of blood to the brain.

UEA’s Norwich Medical School Lead Researcher, Dr David Vauzour said “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 cranberry group 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,” he said.

“Demonstrating in humans that cranberry supplementation can improve cognitive performance and identifying some of the mechanisms responsible is an important step for this research field.”

Vauzour claimed the findings were “very encouraging” and will lay the groundwork for further study into maintaining neurological health.

“Especially considering that a relatively short 12-week cranberry intervention was able to produce significant improvements in memory and neural function,” he said

“This establishes an important foundation for future research in the area of cranberries and neurological health.”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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