Diet and Brain Health

Cranberries May Improve Memory and Brain Function in Adults

Cranberry supplements may have a reputation for preventing urinary tract infections, but the sour fruit may have a new health benefit to boast: improved memory and brain function in older adults.

A Study on Adults 50+

A new study published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition looked at the health impact of adults ages 50 to 80 consuming the equivalent of a cup of cranberries a day. The researchers found a link between consuming to sachets of freeze-dried cranberry powder and visual episodic memory performance (i.e., memories of events). In addition, compared to the placebo group, participants in the control group had increased blood flow in three brain areas (as seen on an MRI scan). These included:

• The entorhinal cortex (dealing with memory, navigation, and the perception of time)

• The accumbens area (involved in the cognitive processing of motor function related to reward and reinforcement and the regulation of slow-wave sleep)

• The caudate nucleus (dealing with learning, memory, reward, motivation, emotion and planning movement, et al.)

The results weren’t exactly shocking, especially considering that numerous studies have previously shown a higher dietary intake of flavonoids—a group of plant compounds found in vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables, coffee, tea, and red wine—is associated with brain health. In addition, the MIND diet, which was designed to lower an individual’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s, lists fruits and vegetables among its most vital components. But the 12-week study did provide more data to propel further research on the benefits of cranberries.

Another important finding

Another noteworthy finding from the study: a significant decrease in the control group’s LDL cholesterol (sometimes referred to as “bad cholesterol”). High LDL cholesterol may contribute to a variety of conditions, including heart disease, stroke, atherosclerosis, heart attack, and carotid artery disease. But while it may be tempting to increase your intake of cranberries in some form, it’s essential that you talk to your doctor first as the compounds in cranberries can interact with blood-thinning medications.


Wendy Burt-Thomas writes about the brain, mental health and parenting.

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