Cranberries could boost memory and prevent dementia, say University of East Anglia scientists

Cranberries could boost memory and prevent dementia, a new study suggests. Credit: PA images

Eating cranberries could help improve memory and prevent dementia, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of East Anglia, based in Norwich, have said that adding cranberries to your diet could help improve memory and brain function and lower "bad"cholesterol.

It comes as a new report released on Tuesday predicts that more than 325,000 people in England have dementia but are undiagnosed.

The new study looks at the neuroprotective potential of cranberries - and suggests that the findings will have implications for the prevention of dementia.

The research team studied the benefits of consuming the equivalent of a cup of cranberries a day among 50 to 80-year-olds.

The study looked into 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 results showed that consuming cranberries significantly improved the participants' memory of everyday events, neural functioning, and delivery of blood to the brain.

The study is one of the first to examine cranberries and their long-term impact on cognition and brain health in humans.

Lead researcher Dr David Vauzour, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, said: "Dementia is expected to affect around 152 million people by 2050.

"There is no known cure, so it is crucial that we seek modifiable lifestyle interventions, such as diet, that could help lessen disease risk and burden.

"Past studies have shown that higher dietary flavonoid intake is associated with slower rates of cognitive decline and dementia. And foods rich in anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins, which give berries their red, blue, or purple colour, have been found to improve cognition.

"Cranberries are rich in these micronutrients and have been recognised for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties."

The study was supported by a grant from The Cranberry Institute. It was led by the University of East Anglia in collaboration with researchers at the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, the University of Parma in Italy and the Quadram Institute based in the UK.

"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 said.