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Good Reasons to Eat Cranberries

Eating berries frequently or daily has all sorts of health benefits. Two recent studies have focused on daily consumption of cranberries and found them to be beneficial for memory and neural functioning, and also for heart health.

Both studies had persons ingest whole cranberry powder (equivalent to 100 grams or 1 cup of whole cranberries) daily for 12 weeks (memory study) or 1 month (heart study).

While studies usually focus on just one type of berry to try to figure out how and what health benefits are occurring, there is no one berry a person should eat. Eat them all! Studies show they all offer something a little different, and all also have lots of fiber (very important for health!).

Also, eat real foods, not supplements. Again: studies do not find that there is one food or supplement that will prevent health problems or dementia. Eat more fruits, berries, vegetables, and cut back on ultra-processed foods. [See Medscape article below.]

From Medscape: A Cup of Cranberries a Day Tied to Better Memory

For healthy middle-aged and older adults, adding cranberries to the diet may help improve memory and brain function, in addition to lowering LDL cholesterol, new research suggests.

Results from a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of adults aged 50-80 years showed that consuming freeze-dried cranberry extract, which is equal to one cup of fresh cranberries, for 12 weeks was associated with improved episodic memory. This coincided with increased blood flow to key areas of the brain that support cognition.

Cranberries are particularly rich in (poly)phenols such as anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins (both A- and B-type), flavonols, and hydroxycinnamic acids. These compounds are known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and are increasingly recognized for their neuroprotective potential.

In the current study, 60 healthy adults (mean age, 65 years) consumed cranberry powder that was equivalent to 100 g of fresh cranberries or matching placebo for 12 weeks.

Key Message: Eat Natural Foods

Commenting on the study for Medscape Medical News, Zhaoping Li, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Human Nutrition and chief of the Division of Clinical Nutrition, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles, said she was not surprised by the findings.

"Foods rich in phenolic compounds such as berries and other fruits have been shown to improve memory, especially visual memory. We have done a similar study with pomegranate with similar findings," said Li, who was not involved with the research.

"The key message should be eating more natural foods such as fruits and vegetables to replace ultra processed foods will improve our overall health beyond memory," she added.

"However, to date, there is not one single ingredient that, through rigorous research, has been found to prevent or reduce risk of dementia," Snyder told Medscape Medical News. She added that "given the complexity of the brain and the diseases that cause dementia," it is unlikely that just one food, ingredient, or supplement can have a significant effect against disease.

From Medical Xpress: Study shows 100g of cranberries a day improves cardiovascular health

A new clinical trial found daily consumption of cranberries for one month improved cardiovascular function in healthy men.

The new study, published today in Food & Function, included 45 healthy men who consumed whole cranberry powder equivalent to 100g of fresh cranberries per day (9 g powder) or a placebo for one month. Those consuming cranberry had a significant improvement in flow-mediated dilation (FMD), which signals improvement of heart and blood vessel function. FMD is considered a sensitive biomarker of cardiovascular disease risk and measures how blood vessels widen when blood flow increases.

Low consumption of fruits and vegetables is one of the top modifiable risk factors associated with a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease worldwide. Growing evidence continues to link the polyphenols from berries with heart health benefits. Cranberries are rich in unique proanthocyanidins that have distinct properties compared to polyphenols found in other fruits.

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