New evidence to support the health benefits of cranberries comes from the US this week as researchers suggest cranberries may reduce brain cell damage associated with stroke.
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, claim 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 researchers say. Their study, which they claim is the first to demonstrate a link between cranberries and protection from stroke, was presented this week at the 226th national meeting of the American Chemical Society.
"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, says Neto.
Until those studies are done, nobody knows the amount of cranberries or cranberry juice people should eat or drink to have an optimal effect against stroke, she added.
Further studies are now underway to isolate the active compounds, the researchers say. Once the active component is identified, researchers may be able to develop it into a stroke-fighting drug or nutraceutical.