Adding one particular berry to your diet could help improve memory and brain function and also lower levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol, research has found.
Dementia is Australia’s second leading cause of death, with one new case being diagnosed every six minutes.
What triggers dementia is still something of a mystery, but researchers from the University of East Anglia have demonstrated in a new study that adding cranberries to your diet can boost your memory and stave off cognitive decline.
The research team was examining the effects of adding the equivalent of one cup of cranberries per day to the diet of 50 to 80-year-olds.
Over the course of 12 weeks, half of the participants added freeze-dried cranberry powder – the equivalent of one cup or 100g of fresh cranberries – to their diets, while the other half received a placebo.
The results showed that consuming cranberry powder significantly improved participants’ memory of everyday events (visual episodic memory), neural functioning and delivery of blood to the brain (brain perfusion).
“We found that the participants who consumed the cranberry powder showed significantly improved episodic memory performance in combination with improved circulation of essential nutrients such as oxygen and glucose to important parts of the brain that support cognition – specifically memory consolidation and retrieval,” says Dr David Vauzour, lead author of the study.
The research also showed decreased levels of LDL cholesterol – the ‘bad’ cholesterol – in the group that consumed the cranberry powder. LDL cholesterol has been identified as a major contributor to dementia.
“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,” Dr Vauzour says.
“This supports the idea that cranberries can improve vascular health and may in part contribute to the improvement in brain perfusion and cognition.”
Dietary changes have long been linked to more effective dementia prevention.
Dementia Australia advises eating a diet high in monounsaturated, transunsaturated and omega-3 fats and boosting your intake of antioxidants and vitamins.
It also recommends consuming B group vitamins, particularly vitamin B12. Foods rich in B12 include meat, shellfish, dairy foods, tempeh and other fermented foods, as well as some fortified breakfast cereals.
The foods most strongly associated with an increased risk of developing dementia include sugary snacks, alcohol, processed meat and starches such as potatoes.
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