Human Study Finds Memory and Neurological Function Improved by Cranberry Consumption
A New Frontier: Research Uncovers Cranberries' Link to Neurological Protection and Improved LDL Cholesterol Levels
CARVER, Mass., May 19, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- 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.
Using the gold standard experimental approach (randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled parallel intervention trial) the results of this trial highlighted significantly improved episodic memory performance in combination with improved circulation of essential nutrients (e.g. oxygen and glucose) to important neural areas that support cognition – specifically memory consolidation and retrieval.
"The findings of this study are highly encouraging, considering that a relatively short 12-week cranberry intervention was able to produce significant improvements in memory and neural function," says Dr. Vauzour. "This establishes an important foundation for future research in the area of cranberries and neurological health."
To read the study in its entirety, the Frontiers in Nutrition article can be accessed here: 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.
The study was supported by a grant from the Cranberry Institute. For more information about the Cranberry Institute, along with the health benefits of cranberries and current scientific research, visit: www.CranberryInstitute.org.