Eating a cup of cranberries per day may improve memory, ward off dementia and reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol in those aged 50- 80 years old. The corresponding study was published in Frontiers in Nutrition by researchers in the UK, the Netherlands, and Italy.
By 2015, around 152 million people are expected to have dementia. As there is currently no cure for the condition, modifiable lifestyle interventions are key to reducing disease risk.
Previous research has indicated that higher dietary flavonoid intake is linked to lower rates of cognitive decline and dementia. In particular, foods rich in anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins- which give berries their red, blue, or purple colors- are linked to improved cognition.
As cranberries are rich in these micronutrients, the researchers in the present study set out to investigate the effects of eating cranberries for 12 weeks on both brain function and cholesterol levels among 50 cognitively healthy participants.
For the study, they enrolled 60 older adults aged between 50 and 80 years old. The participants were then split into two groups and asked to consume either freeze-dried cranberry powder, equivalent to 100g of fresh cranberries, or a placebo, on a daily basis.
Each provided blood samples and underwent a cognitive assessment and neuroimaging before and after the study.
In the end, the researchers found that consuming cranberries significantly improved participants’ memory of everyday events. It also improved the circulation of essential nutrients, including oxygen and glucose, to brain areas that support cognition. Those eating cranberries further experienced significant decreases in LDL.
The researchers concluded that daily cranberry consumption both improves vascular health and memory and neural function.
The researchers say that their findings are encouraging, especially considering the relatively short intervention period. They say that their research establishes an important foundation for future study into how cranberries affect neurological health.