A new study conducted by researchers from the University of East Anglia explored how consumers’ diets may affect their memory. According to the findings, eating a cup of cranberries per day may improve memory skills and lower the risk of dementia.
“Past studies have shown that higher dietary flavonoid intake is associated with slower rates of cognitive decline and dementia,” said researcher Dr. David Vauzour. “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. We wanted to find out more about how cranberries could help reduce age-related neurodegeneration.”
Health benefits of cranberries
The researchers had 60 adults between the ages of 50 and 80 participate in a 12-week study. Half of the group ate one cup of freeze-dried cranberry powder for each day of the study; the second group ate a placebo. Both before and after the study, the researchers assessed the participants’ cognitive function and collected blood samples to measure their memory skills and cholesterol.
The researchers observed important health benefits in the participants who ate cranberries every day. The group had significant improvements in visual episodic memory, which allows people to recall visual information they’ve seen. They also had stronger neural function and better blood flow to the brain. The team believes this can be an effective way for older consumers to lower their risk of dementia.
“We found that participants who consumed the cranberry powder showed significantly improved episodic memory performance in combination with improved circulation of essential nutrients such as oxygen and glucose to the important parts of the brain that support cognition – specifically memory consolidation and retrieval,” Dr. Vauzour said.
In addition to memory and cognitive benefits, the researchers also learned that eating the cranberry powder was linked with significantly lower levels of LDL cholesterol. The team explained that this improvement in vascular health may be linked with cognitive benefits.
“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,” said Dr. Vauzour. “The findings of this study are very encouraging, especially considering that a relatively short 12-week cranberry intervention was able to produce significant improvements in memory and neural function. This established an important foundation for future research in the area of cranberries and neurological health.”