Cranberries could improve memory, lower ‘bad’ cholesterol

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Scientists from the University of East Anglia found that adding cranberries to your diet could help improve memory and brain function and lower ‘bad’ cholesterol.

They hope that their findings could help prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.

The research is published in Frontiers in Nutrition and was conducted by Dr. David Vauzour et al.

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.

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.

Cranberries are rich in these micronutrients and have been recognized for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

In the study, the team examined the benefits of consuming the equivalent of a cup of cranberries a day among 50 to 80-year-olds.

They tested the impact of eating cranberries for 12 weeks on brain function and cholesterol among 60 cognitively healthy participants.

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

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

The participants who consumed the cranberry powder showed strongly improved memory performance in combination with the improved circulation of essential nutrients such as oxygen and glucose to important parts of the brain that support cognition.

The cranberry group also exhibited a large 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 team says the findings of this study are very encouraging, especially considering that a relatively short 12-week cranberry intervention was able to produce big improvements in memory and neural function.

If you care about dementia, please read studies that vitamin deficiency may lead to dementia, and findings of new drug to treat Lewy body dementia.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies that Mid-life heart disease prevention may prevent later dementia, and results showing nightly sleep of 5 hours, less, may increase risk of dementia.

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