Tart cherry juice may strengthen memory, cognition in older adults, study finds

NEWARK, Del. — Tart juice made from Montmorency cherries, the most common type of tart cherries grown in the United States, has long been used to treat a variety of health problems such as gout or sleeplessness. Now, a new study conducted at the University of Delaware has found evidence that a daily serving of cherry juice may improve cognitive functioning and performance in older adults.

Adults between the ages of 65-73 enjoyed improved scores on memory and cognition tests after drinking Montmorency tart cherry juice every day, the study shows.

In total, 34 participants took part in the study; half were placed in an experimental group that drank 16 ounces of Montmorency tart cherry juice every day (8 ounces in the morning and 8 ounces at night) for 12 weeks, and the other half were placed in a control group that drank the same amount of a placebo drink. Before and after the 12 week trail period, the cognitive functioning and memory performance of each adult was tested using a series of questionnaires and exams.

All of the participants were generally healthy, weren’t taking any medication that interferes with cognition, and were asked to maintain their usual diets and physical activity regiments during the course of the study.

After 12 weeks, researchers found that those within the experimental group scored higher in both cognitive functioning and subjective memory. More specifically, these participants displayed a 5% increase in satisfaction regarding their ability to remember things, a 4% improvement in movement time (response to visual stimuli), and a 23% reduction in episodic memory errors compared to the control group that only drank a placebo.

Besides those improvements, the experimental group also exhibited a 3% increase in sustained visual attention and information processing, and an 18% drop in working memory errors.

“Cognitive function is a key determinant of independence and quality of life among older adults,” explains lead author Sheau Ching Chai in a release. “The potential beneficial effects of tart cherries may be related to the bioactive compounds they possess, which include polyphenols, anthocyanins and melanin. They may also be related to tart cherry’s potential blood-pressure lowering effects, outlined in a previous study we conducted in the same population, as blood pressure can influence blood flow to the brain.”

Researchers say they would like to conduct longer, larger studies involving tart cherry juice in order to confirm and build upon their initial findings.

The study is published in the scientific journal Food & Function.

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