Currently, there is no cure for dementia, a neurological disease that is predicted to impact around 152 million people by 2050. Research teams around the world are constantly working on ways to ward off the disease and find ways to treat it. The Optimist Daily has reported on many of these efforts, including studies that link spending time in greenery with reduced risk of dementia and the discovery of new disease biomarkers.
A new study, from the University of East Anglia, has highlighted a simple way to fight the neurological disease, through eating cranberries.
“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 color, have been found to improve cognition,” explains lead researcher Dr. David Vauzour.
They added: “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.”
How do cranberries impact the brain?
The researchers tracked the brain function of 60 cognitively healthy participants over 12 weeks. Half of the group consumed the equivalent of one cup of fresh cranberries daily in powdered form, while the other consumed a placebo.
Impressively over this short period, the memory of everyday events, neural functioning, and delivery of blood to the brain were all improved in the participants who consumed the cranberries. “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,” said Vauzour said.
Not only did cranberry consumption improve these facets of brain health, but also decreased the amount of LDL or “bad” cholesterol in circulation. Vauzour explains: “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.”
The group hopes this research establishes a foundation for the future of research in using cranberries to improve neurological health.
Source study: Frontiers in Nutrition – Chronic consumption of cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) for 12 weeks improves episodic memory and regional brain perfusion in healthy older adults: A randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-groups feasibility study