Did you know that something as simple as adding cranberries to your diet could help lower your risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia?
A fascinating new clinical trial showed that the polyphenols in cranberries have the power to improve memory and ward off cognitive decline in elderly adults.
Today, I’m highlighting the findings from this study and giving you an inside look at what my business partner, Dr. Mark Hyman, and I do to cash in on the brain-boosting magic of cranberries, so you can start doing it too!
Ready? Let’s jump right in!
How the Study Went Down
Researchers recruited a total of 60 healthy adults with no signs of memory loss between the ages of 50 and 80. Participants were randomly assigned to take a 4.5-gram packet of freeze-dried cranberry powder (the equivalent of one cup of fresh cranberries) twice a day for 12 weeks, or a placebo that looked and tasted exactly like the cranberry powder.
The main polyphenols in the cranberry extract powder were anthocyanidins, proanthocyanins, and flavonols, which belong to the flavonoid subclass of polyphenols. There are a bunch of studies that demonstrate the neuroprotective properties of flavonoids, and they work through a variety of different mechanisms.
In this particular study, researchers measured the impact of cranberry polyphenols on blood flow to certain areas of the brain, and the effect this had on memory, attention, and focus using a series of cognitive assessments.
What It Found
The most notable finding from this study was that the regions of the brain responsible for memory received greater blood flow in the cranberry intervention group than in the placebo group. This enhanced blood flow coincided with significant improvements in episodic memory (the memory of everyday events), which researchers attributed to the enhanced delivery of glucose and oxygen, allowing neurons to better communicate with each other to recall information.
Lastly, researchers observed a decrease in LDL cholesterol in the cranberry group. We’ve talked about why LDL cholesterol isn’t the best marker for metabolic health in previous newsletters, but when combined with high levels of inflammation (which wasn’t measured here) it could contribute to poor blood flow and vascular function.
What Does This Mean? You Have More Control Than You Think!
The incidence of Alzheimer’s and dementia is projected to double every 20 years and is expected to affect over 150 million people by 2050. And the craziest part is most people think it’s just a normal part of aging. 😳
That’s why I’m super thankful for experts like Dr. Ben Bikman, Dr. David Perlmutter, and Dr. Datis Kharrazian who are drawing attention to the many factors driving cognitive decline (insulin resistance, leaky gut, omega-3 deficiency, a sedentary lifestyle, chronic stress, and environmental toxins are a few of the main ones).
Contrary to popular belief, our genes play more of a minor role in cognitive decline, and we actually have more control over our brain health than we originally thought.
And studies like this one are beginning to show promise for polyphenols as one safe, natural, and effective treatment for preserving our brain function.
As we saw in this study, cranberries are one polyphenol-rich food that can help improve memory by enhancing blood flow to those areas of the brain. Another reason they work is that they feed and grow Akkermansia, a gut bacteria that promotes metabolic and gut health, which are directly related to brain health.
If you’re wondering how to cash in on the brain-boosting properties of cranberries, I got you covered in today’s protocol! But first, I want to give some love to today’s Try This sponsor, Cozy Earth.
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Alright, let’s dive into the protocol!
- Lakewood Organic Pure Cranberry Concentrate. My friend and business partner, Dr. Mark Hyman, adds a tablespoon of Lakewood Organic Cranberry extract directly into the Akkermansia shake he used to help repair his gut. You can also try mixing a tablespoon of cranberry concentrate into a big glass of ice water for a refreshing, cranberry-infused beverage.Note: If you’ve been reading my newsletter for a while, you probably know that our goal is to minimize fruit juice and liquid sugar to prevent blood sugar spikes, an overload of fructose to our liver, and metabolic stress.However, that’s if we’re talking about regularly drinking sugary beverages—one tablespoon of actual fruit juice contains less than one gram of sugar and has a negligible blood sugar impact. But if you prefer not having any form of liquid sugar, you can try a cranberry juice powder like the one that was used in the study instead.
- Organic Cranberry Juice Powder. Sometimes, I’ll add a scoop of this cranberry juice powder to my low-glycemic smoothies for an added boost of polyphenols without the sugar. A one-scoop serving contains 0.3 grams of total sugar and the equivalent of two-and-a-half cups of cranberries (that’s two-and-a-half times what was used in the study!).
- Berries Are Your Friend. Yes, cranberries were the berry of choice for this study, but they aren’t the only berry loaded with polyphenols. You can get the same flavonoids from pomegranates, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. And what’s better, berries are some of the lowest-glycemic fruits, so they aren’t likely to cause a blood sugar spike. Win-win!
I’m always super excited when I come across studies like this one because it gives us yet another tool we can use to support and preserve our brain function.
While I am definitely going to incorporate more cranberries into my diet on a regular basis, the truth is, the more I learn about the healing properties of certain whole foods, the more convinced I am that it’s not just one food, but the synergy of all of the foods that make up a clean whole-foods diet working together, that helps protect us from chronic disease.
This is just another reminder of the power of food as medicine.
Much love for that beautiful brain of yours,