A new human intervention study published in Frontiers in Nutrition highlights the neuroprotective potential of cranberries. Researchers at the University of East Anglia in England observed that consuming cranberries for a 12-week period significantly improved brain perfusion, visual episodic memory and neural functioning.
The study, Chronic consumption of Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) for 12 weeks improves episodic memory and regional brain perfusion in healthy older adults: A randomised, placebo-controlled, parallel-groups feasibility study, followed the progress of 60 cognitively healthy adults aged between 50 to 80 years, for 12 weeks, while they consumed either freeze-dried cranberry powder or a placebo on a daily basis.
Participants consuming the freeze-dried cranberries, equivalent to 1 cup or 100g of fresh cranberries, exhibited a significant decrease in LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, known to contribute to atherosclerosis, supporting the notion that cranberries can improve vascular health. This may in part contribute to the improvement in brain perfusion and cognition.
The leading researcher, Dr. David Vauzour, a Senior Research Fellow in Molecular Nutrition at Norwich Medical School University of East Anglia commented, "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." Dr. Vauzour believes this could have implications for the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases, stating, "It is essential that novel solutions are identified to help reduce age-related neurodegeneration and until now, cranberries were an unutilized natural resource."
With dementia expected to affect approximately 152 million people by 2050, it is crucial to seek modifiable lifestyle interventions, such as diet, that could help lessen disease risk and burden. Past studies have identified that higher dietary flavonoid intake is associated with slower rates of cognitive decline and dementia, with foods rich in anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins, like berries, found to improve cognition.
Cranberries are rich in polyphenols including anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins and have been recognized for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This study is one of the first to examine cranberries and their long-term impact on cognition and brain health in humans.
For more information: cranberryinstitute.org