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Better living through cherry juice

Cherries and berries (the former is not a type of the latter, by the way) have increasingly shown cognitive benefits. This trial specifically explores cherries for Alzheimer’s disease.

Study under review: Consumption of anthocyanin-rich cherry juice for 12 weeks improves memory and cognition in older adults with mildto-moderate dementia

Introduction

Plant-based[1] foods have been contributing positively to human health since time immemorial. More recently, these health effects have been widely attributed to phytochemicals, a group of non-nutritive bioactive compounds generally found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes.

In the fields of neuroprotection and cognitive functioning, plants are once again at the forefront of cutting-edge science: flavonoids, a category of phytochemicals, have been associated with improved cognitive function and reduced neurodegenerative decline in old age. In fact, two studies reported that daily consumption of either wild blueberry juice or concord grape[2] juice for 12 weeks led to improvements in verbal learning and memory in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. A more recent study extended these findings to older adults with no sign of cognitive impairment, reporting that daily consumption of flavanone-rich orange juice[3] for eight weeks seemed to improve overall cognitive performance.

As promising as this sounds, the research is still lacking in individuals that have dementia, a blanket term for various neurodegenerative diseases that are believed to compromise the areas of the brain associated with “higher brain functions,” such as language, memory, learning, and self-awareness. Dementia progresses to the point that the individual eventually finds it difficult to perform day-to-day activities and live independently.

Alzheimer’s disease[4] (AD), the most common form of dementia, is the sixth leading cause of death in America. At the time of this writing, approximately 5.3 million Americans live with AD. By 2050, this number is projected to increase to about 15.3 million (almost a 300% increase) as members of the baby boomer generation age. In light of this rapid rise of AD and the lack of effective treatments, it’s important to conduct further studies examining the effect of fruit flavonoids on cognitive function in individuals with AD.

Therefore, the authors of this study sought to analyze the effects of sweet cherry juice, another flavonoid-abundant fruit (primarily through flavonoid subgroup anthocyanins) on the cognitive performance of individuals with mild-to-moderate AD.

Many of the health-conferring effects of plant-based foods may be attributed to their phytochemical content. Fruits rich in flavonoids, a class of phytochemicals, have recently shown promise in improving cognitive function and attenuating neurodegenerative decline. Unfortunately, research on this topic is lacking in people with Alzheimer’s disease, the sixth leading cause of death in America. The purpose of this study was to analyze the effect of daily consumption of flavonoid-rich sweet cherry juice for 12 weeks on the cognitive performance of elderly adults with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Who and what was studied?

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