Eating cranberries, but also berries in general protects the brain from the risk of neurodegeneration, improves memory and also reduces bad cholesterol. In short, you can't ask for better than this! These benefits just mentioned were observed by a group of British scientists from the University of East Anglia who published them in a very recent article that appeared in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition (Flanagan et al, Frontiers in Nutrition, 2022).
Berries and brain
Berries are rich in antioxidant substances, such as anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins, which, in addition to giving the characteristic red, blue or purple color to the berries, also bring with them precious neuroprotective properties. In fact, berries have been shown, based on previous studies, to slow cognitive decline and dementia. Among the berries is cranberry, which nowadays we can also easily find everywhere, dried, frozen or in the form of juice. Cranberry is also anti-inflammatory and has been extensively studied for its useful properties in counteracting cystitis. The scientists of the research we are talking about today, however, have focused on what cranberry can do for our brain health, delving into its effects on memory and cognitive function in healthy people and trying to shed light on the mechanisms behind its observed benefits.
Cranberry improves memory, the study
Scientists have recruited 60 people, between the ages of 50 and 80, all in good health both physically and mentally. The volunteers were divided into two groups. The first group was asked to take freeze-dried cranberries every day for three months in a quantity equal to one cup, approximately 250 grams, of fresh cranberry. The second group took a placebo instead. Well, at the end of the three months those who had taken the cranberry showed a significant improvement in episodic visual memory, which is the memory that includes the daily events of our life, but also of neuronal functioning and blood supply, and therefore of oxygen and glucose supply, to the brain, in particular to the areas that are responsible for consolidating memory and for the ability to recall stored information. Not only that, those who had taken cranberry also showed an important decrease in LDL bad cholesterol values, which is a well-known cause of atherosclerosis and therefore hardening of the arteries. So, cranberries contribute to the health of our vascular system and thus support blood flow to the brain. This action explains the process by which cranberries bring benefits to cognitive function, that is, by improving the nourishment of those parts of the brain responsible for storing memory and the ability to retrieve this information.
The results of the study are very encouraging, since they have been observed after a short treatment period, only three months, and have witnessed important benefits both at the vascular level and in brain functioning. So here is further proof that our health depends also on diet! Of course, it is not easy to be able to eat 250 grams of cranberry every day, which, moreover, can also be a little acidic and therefore perhaps not particularly tasty for everyone. However, health is built day by day, over time, by introducing in one's daily, healthy and varied diet, moderate amounts of berries rich in anthocyanins, including cranberries, with results that may take a little longer than three months before being detected but which in any case will contribute to our physical and mental well-being.