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Why you should be eating more cranberries

A new study says that the sour red fruits may help improve memory, fight dementia and lower bad cholesterol

Cranberries haven't been called a superfood without reason
Cranberries haven't been called a superfood without reason (Unsplash)

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Sure, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but a bowlful of cranberries may mean you don't need that medicine.A recent study from the University of East Anglia (UK) implies as much, claiming that cranberries--which have been on the superfood list for a while--  may help improve memory and lower bad cholesterol, among other things.

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ANI reported that the study was conducted by studying the benefits of consuming the equivalent of a cup of cranberries a day among 50 to 80-year-olds."They hope that their findings could have implications for the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia," said the report.

Lead researcher Dr David Vauzour, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, told ANI that dementia, which is expected to affect around 152 million people by 2050, has no known cure."It is crucial that we seek modifiable lifestyle interventions, such as diet, that could help lessen disease risk and burden," he said.He also pointed out that past studies have shown that higher dietary flavonoid intake is associated with slower rates of cognitive decline and dementia."Foods rich in anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins, which give berries their red, blue, or purple colour, have been found to improve cognition," he said,  adding that 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."

ANI also detailed the research methodology of the study.According to the wire service, the research team investigated 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 study is one of the first to examine cranberries and their long-term impact on cognition and brain health in humans," stated ANI.It also pointed out that the results showed that consuming cranberries significantly improved the participants' memory of everyday events (visual episodic memory), neural functioning and delivery of blood to the brain (brain perfusion).

Dr Vauzour told ANI that they had found that the participants who consumed the cranberry powder showed significantly improved episodic memory performance in combination with an improved circulation of essential nutrients such as oxygen and glucose to important parts of the brain that support cognition -- specifically memory consolidation and retrieval."The cranberry group also exhibited a significant 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," he said.

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So what does this mean for a layperson trying to keep cognitive decline at bay? Dr Vauzour seems to believe that adding a cranberry supplementation to your regular diet can improve cognitive performance."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," he added."This establishes an important foundation for future research in the area of cranberries and neurological health."


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