Cranberries could improve memory and ward off dementia - study

A peer review study found that eating cranberries significantly improved visual episodic memory, neural functioning and blood delivery to the brain.

Cranberries grown and harvested in Massachusetts, USA (photo credit: Cjboffoli/Wikimedia)
Cranberries grown and harvested in Massachusetts, USA
(photo credit: Cjboffoli/Wikimedia)

Cranberries may be able to improve memory and help ward off dementia, a new study published on Thursday has shown.

Who conducted the study? 

The peer-reviewed study was supported by a grant from The Cranberry Institute. It was led by the University of East Anglia (UEA) in collaboration with researchers at the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, the University of Parma (Italy) and the Quadram Institute (UK). Results were published in the journal, Frontiers in Nutrition. 

Researchers at UEA studied the benefits of eating one cup of cranberries a day for individuals aged 50-80 years. The 60 healthy participants ate cranberries each day for 12 weeks. Half of them took in the cranberries via freeze-dried cranberry powder; the other half took a placebo. 

“Cranberries are rich in these micronutrients and have been recognized for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties," explained lead researcher Dr. David Vauzour of UEA's Norwich Medical School, “We wanted to find out more about how cranberries could help reduce age-related neurodegeneration.”

Why is studying the benefits of cranberries important? 

According to the United States National Institute on Aging, the brain undergoes changes with age, such as:

  • Certain parts of the brain shrink, particularly those required for complex mental processes
  • Communication in certain regions of the brain becomes less effective
  • Decreased blood flow in the brain
 Patients with Alzheimer's and dementia are sit inside the Alzheimer foundation in Mexico City (credit: EDGARD GARRIDO/ REUTERS) Patients with Alzheimer's and dementia are sit inside the Alzheimer foundation in Mexico City (credit: EDGARD GARRIDO/ REUTERS)

These are all normal aging processes, but making an effort to combat them can aid in the prevention of dementia, a much more serious condition than simply aging.

The findings

The study is among the first to examine the long-term impact of cranberries on cognition and brain health in humans. The results showed that eating cranberries significantly improved participants' visual episodic memory, neural functioning and delivery of blood to the brain.

“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,” Dr. Vauzour added, “this establishes an important foundation for future research in the area of cranberries and neurological health.”