Cranberries may reduce brain cell damage associated with stroke, researchers claimed at a scientific meeting in the US yesterday.
In laboratory studies using rat brain cells exposed to simulated stroke conditions, a concentrated cranberry extract reduced the death of brain cells by half in comparison to cells that did not receive the extract, said the scientists.
The findings suggest that cranberries can aid recovery from stroke, particularly in its earliest stages, in which the most severe damage occurs. The study, said to be the first to demonstrate a link between cranberries and protection from stroke, was presented yesterday at an American Chemical Society meeting.
"This study shows that cranberries have the potential to protect against brain cell damage that occurs during a stroke event," said Catherine Neto, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and a lead investigator in the study. "It may not stop a stroke from occurring initially, but it may reduce the severity of stroke," she added.
Neurons from the brains of several rats were collected for the study. After placing the neurons in tissue culture, millions of cells were grown and then divided into different treatment groups with varying concentrations of cranberry juice. Under simulated conditions of stroke, exposure to cranberry juice was found to have a statistically significant effect in reducing brain cell death.
Although animal and human studies are needed to confirm the findings, the study offers a compelling reason for recent stroke victims and those at risk for stroke to consume cranberries, said Neto. Until those studies are done however, nobody knows the amount of cranberries or cranberry juice people should eat or drink to have an optimal effect against stroke.
Cranberries have most often been studied for their benefits on urinary health, although a recent study found that drinking the juice of the berries raised levels of 'good cholesterol' in the blood and increases plasma antioxidant levels, reducing the risk of heart disease.
Further studies are now underway to isolate the active compounds in the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth trial. Once the active component is identified, researchers may be able to develop it into a stroke-fighting drug or nutraceutical.