Dr's Casebook: Eating berries may help your memory and cholesterol

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I trust you enjoyed the Platinum Jubilee long bank holiday weekend.

Dr Keith Souter writes: And of course, many people will have been enjoying all the summer berries. That is good, because research keeps showing how beneficial to one’s health berries are.

The very latest research from the University of East Anglia suggests that adding cranberries to your diet could help improve memory and brain function, and also lower ‘bad’ cholesterol. They seem to have a protective effect on the brain and the circulation.

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This study looked at the effect of consuming the equivalent of a cup of cranberries a day among 50 to 80-year-olds. Previous research had shown that increasing dietary flavonoid intake is associated with slower rates of cognitive decline and dementia. In particular, berries which are rich in anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins, the natural substances that give them their red, blue, or purple colour, have been found to improve memory and thinking processes.

Photo: AdobeStockPhoto: AdobeStock
Photo: AdobeStock

Cranberries are well known to have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The researchers wanted to see whether they could help improve age-related mental decline. Thy did so by looking at the effect on both brain function and cholesterol levels of eating cranberries for 12 weeks. They recruited 60 cognitively healthy participants. Half were given freeze-dried cranberry powder, the equivalent to a cup or 100g of fresh cranberries, daily. The other half consumed a placebo.

They found that the cranberries significantly improved the participants’ memory of everyday events and their neural functioning and brain perfusion.

Significantly they also reduced their LDL, or bad cholesterol. That in itself is important as it is a risk factor for arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

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Blueberries are probably the richest source of antioxidants among all of the fruit and vegetables.

This was demonstrated at the Human Research Centre on Ageing at Tufts University in Boston, where they tested 40 common fruits and vegetable, including oranges, spinach and broccoli, in order to ascertain their antioxidant levels. Blueberries came out top of the list with cranberries not far behind.

A similar study to the cranberry study carried out a few years ago by researchers at the University of California also showed that daily blueberries can lower LDL of bad cholesterol.

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