Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Considering a cranberry side dish for Thanksgiving? New study shows regular consumption may lower cholesterol and prevent memory loss

Photo of cranberry sauce by Karen and Brad Emerson via Wikimedia Commons

Okay, I’ll admit this blog entry has nothing really to do with comparative physiology. I just happen to really like eating cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving and was curious about the benefits of eating cranberries more often.

Like many other berries, cranberries are a super-fruit rich in polyphenols and antioxidants that are associated with protecting brain health with aging. On their own they are rather bitter due to the high amounts of tannins the berries develop to try to prevent animals from consuming them. They also contain much less sugar than other berries. So, rather than relying on animals to ingest and spread the seeds, these berries typically grow near water sources where they can be easily transported downstream to new sites. Fortunately, humans are good at adding sugar to their foods to sweeten up the tart berries and bears like to snack on them too.

As it turns out, our love for cranberries just may help preserve our brain health and reduce cholesterol with aging. A new study explored whether 12 weeks of consuming a cranberry powder (equal to about 1 cup of whole cranberries) could improve memory and brain function and other biomarkers of aging in healthy 50-80 year-old adults in comparison to a placebo. The study found that regular consumption of the cranberry powder improved memory and lowered LDL (i.e. “bad”) cholesterol in comparison to the placebo.

I just may have a second (or third) helping of cranberry relish this Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!   


E Flanagan, D Cameron, R Sobhan, C Wong, MG Pontifex, N Tosi, P Mena, DD Rio, S Sami, A Narbad, M Muller, M Hornberger, D Vauzour. Chronic consumption of cranberries (Vaccicium macrocarpon) for 12 weeks improves episodic memory and regional brain perfusion in healthy older adults: A randomised, placebo-controlled, parallel-groups feasibility study. Frontiers in Nutrition. 9: 849902, 2022.

The weird evolutionary story of cranberries

Categories: Aging, Diet and Exercise, Intelligence and Neuroscience

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