Published in the Food & Function journal, their findings demonstrated that the consumption of Montmorency tart cherry juice every day for three months leads to better memory, spatial memory and focus among older adults.
These findings also suggest that Montmorency tart cherry juice can help protect the brain from age-related degeneration and neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia in later life.
More than 50 million people around the globe are suffering from some form of dementia, as per recent reports from the World Health Organization (WHO). Every year, another 10 million cases are added to this figure.
Being chronic in nature, the effects of dementia are most felt in later life. Dementia tends to affect thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, language and judgment, resulting in forgetfulness, irritability, difficulty communicating and a heightened need for assistance.
Despite not being a fatal condition, dementia is a major cause of disability and dependency among older adults. Scientists are also hard-pressed to create cures and treatments because dementia can affect patients in different manners.
That being said, recent studies suggest that proper diet and nutrition can reduce the risk of developing dementia in later life. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can also minimize the incidence of certain risk factors for dementia, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
In this randomized controlled trial (RCT), scientists from UD sought to determine if Montmorency tart cherries, the most common variety of tart cherry in the U.S., can boost cognitive abilities and potentially stall cognitive decline in healthy older adults.
The same team of scientists had demonstrated in a previous study that Montmorency tart cherry juice can reduce systolic blood pressure, treat inflammation and reduce oxidative stress among older adults because of the cherries' high amounts of antioxidants.
The team speculated that the antioxidants in Montmorency tart cherries might also confer neuroprotective effects on the brain, thus reducing the risk of dementia and boosting cognitive abilities.
To test their hypothesis, the team randomly assigned 34 adults, age 65 to 73 years, to consume either 16 oz of Montmorency tart cherry juice or a placebo drink of the same amount every day for three months.
At the time of the trial, none of the participants had prior diagnoses of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other chronic neurological diseases. None of them had also been taking medications that might affect their cognitive abilities.
Additionally, the researchers asked the participants to maintain their diet and physical activity levels for the duration of the trial. They also tested the participants' cognitive abilities using a series of questionnaires and tests before and after the trial.
After the trial, the team found that the Montmorency tart cherry group scored higher in the memory tests compared to the placebo group. The Montmorency tart cherry group also had a four percent reduction in their movement time (the time it takes to complete a task).
Additionally, daily Montmorency tart cherry juice consumption enhanced visual sustained attention by three percent and reduced errors in visual memory by 23 percent. In both instances, the Montmorency tart cherry group scored higher than the placebo group.
Sheau Chai, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of behavioral health and nutrition at UD, notes that the beneficial effects of tart cherries on the brain might be attributed to their bioactive compounds, such as polyphenols, anthocyanins and melatonin.
Together, these compounds might be protecting the brain from inflammation, oxidative stress and cellular damage that can trigger age-related brain degeneration and heighten the risk of dementia.
Taken together, these findings demonstrated that daily Montmorency tart cherry juice consumption promotes better brain health and leads to better cognitive abilities. (Related: Simple strategies for lifelong brain health.)
Learn more about the health benefits of Montmorency tart cherries and other antioxidant-rich fruits at Fruits.news.