Eating a handful of cranberries every day could improve your memory and protect against dementia. That is the conclusion of a British study that found people who consumed the equivalent of a small bowl of cranberries every day for 12 weeks experience an increase in memory and other health markers. Researchers from the University of East Anglia in the U.K. said this could be because consuming cranberries appears to boost blood flow to the brain as recorded by brain scans of the participants.
According Study Finds, participants in the study also had 9% less of “bad”, LDL, cholesterol, which can block blood vessels and cause dangerous plaque buildup in arteries. Since the number of dementia patients is expected to triple by 2050, it’s important to find ways to mitigate the risk of this incurable disease.
“Dementia is expected to affect around 152 million people by 2050. There is no known cure, so it is crucial we seek modifiable lifestyle interventions, such as diet, that could lessen disease risk and burden,” said Dr. David Vauzour, the lead researcher from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, in a statement. “Past studies have shown that higher dietary flavonoid intake is associated with slower rates of cognitive decline and dementia. And food rich in anthocyanins and proanthocyanins, which give berries their red, blue, or purple color, have been found to improve cognition.”
Vauzour said that cranberries are rich in these micronutrients and have long been recognized for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The research team, funded by The Cranberry Institute, studied 60 cognitively healthy 50 to 80-year-olds. Half consumed freeze-dried cranberry powder that was equal to a cup of berries daily, while the other half consumed a placebo.
After 12 weeks, the cranberry group experienced significant improvement in memory of everyday events, neural functioning, and delivery of blood to the brain, said the university statement.
“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,” said Vauzour. “This supports the idea that cranberries can support vascular health and may in part contribute to the improvement in brain perfusion and cognition.”
Cranberries have often been hailed as a “superfood,” says Study Finds, because of their superior nutrition. They have been linked to combating urinary tract infections, heart disease and certain types of cancer.
Vauzour pointed out the importance of his study in future research.
“The findings of this study are very encouraging, especially considering that a relatively short 12-week cranberry intervention was able to produce significant improvement in memory and neural function,” he said. “This establishes an important foundation for future research in the area of cranberries and neurological health.”
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