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Cranberries may help improve memory and fight dementia

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

SNS | New Delhi |

Berries are usually said to be the healthiest among fruits as they are fueled with antioxidants. However, there are few berries like cranberries that are rarely consumed in their raw form. Due to their sharp and sour taste, cranberries are not as tasty or much in demand as blueberries, strawberries, or blackberries.

However, cranberries can be included in your daily diet now as they are fueled with lots of health benefits according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UK), intake of cranberries may help improve memory and lower bad cholesterol.

The study has highlighted that cranberries has neuroprotective potential. The research team studied the nutritional benefits of the fruit  by giving 50 to 80-year-olds a cup of cranberries a day.

The aim to take up the study was to find a natural way of curing or preventing neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.

The lead researcher of the study, 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.”

He further added,  “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 recognized for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. We wanted to find out more about how cranberries could help reduce age-related neurodegeneration.”

To make sure, the research team further investigated the impact of eating cranberries and the placebo effect of it continuously for 12 weeks on brain function and cholesterol among 60 cognitively healthy participants.

Half of the healthy participants consumed freeze-dried cranberry powder, equivalent to a cup or 100g of fresh cranberries, daily. The other half consumed a placebo.

it is the first study to examine the consumption of cranberries and their long-term effect on cognition and brain health in humans.

The results showed that consuming cranberries significantly improved the participants’ memory of everyday events (visual episodic memory), neural functioning, and delivery of blood to the brain (brain perfusion).

Dr. Vauzour further said, “We found that the participants who consumed the cranberry powder showed significantly improved episodic memory performance in combination with an 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.”

“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.

“The findings of this study are very encouraging, especially considering that a relatively short 12-week cranberry intervention was able to produce significant improvements in memory and neural function,” he added.

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

The study was supported by a grant from The Cranberry Institute. It was led by the University of East Anglia in collaboration with researchers at the Leiden University Medical Center (Netherlands), the University of Parma (Italy), and the Quadram Institute (UK).