Chronic Consumption of Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) for 12 Weeks Improves Episodic Memory and Regional Brain Perfusion in Healthy Older Adults: A Randomised, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel-Groups Feasibility Study
Background: Ageing is highly associated with cognitive decline and modifiable risk factors such as diet are believed to protect against this process. Specific dietary components and in particular, (poly)phenol-rich fruits such as berries have been increasingly recognised for their protection against age-related neurodegeneration. However, the impact of cranberries on cognitive function and neural functioning in older adults remains unclear. Design: A 12-week parallel randomised placebo-controlled trial of freeze-dried cranberry powder was conducted in 60 older adults aged between 50 and 80 years. Cognitive assessment, including memory and executive function, neuroimaging and blood sample collection were conducted before and after the intervention to assess the impact of daily cranberry consumption on cognition, brain function and biomarkers of neuronal signalling. Results: Cranberry supplementation for 12 weeks was associated with improvements in visual episodic memory in aged participants when compared to placebo. Mechanisms of action may include increased regional perfusion in the right entorhinal cortex, the accumbens area and the caudate in the cranberry group. Significant decrease in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol during the course of the intervention was also observed. No significant differences were, however, detected for BDNF levels between groups. Conclusions:The results of this study indicate that daily cranberry supplementation(equivalent to 1 small cup of cranberries) over a 12-week period improves episodicmemory performance and neural functioning, providing a basis for future investigationsto determine efficacy in the context of neurological disease.