Cranberries Lessen Stroke Injury

The tart fruit decreases cell damage after brain injury.

By Colin Allen, published on September 1, 2003 - last reviewed on January 23, 2015

Cranberries may have a previously unknown heath benefit. The tart
fruit appears to dampen damage to the brain before and after a stroke,
according to preliminary research. The berries may aid recovery from a
stroke, particularly in the earliest stages when the most irreversible
damage occurs.

The research findings come from work with rats. Researcher
Catherine Neto from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth cultivated
rat brain cells in the lab, and exposed them to conditions that occur
during a stroke. In the first moments of a stroke, cells are deprived of
oxygen and glucose. Then oxygen quickly returns to the brain, forming
hydrogen peroxide, which also kills cells. In both phases, cranberry
extract helped keep the cells alive.

"We see about 50 percent less brain cell death...when treated with
cranberry extract," Neto says. "We believe that it has something to do
with the antioxidant activity of some of the compounds in
cranberry."

Cranberries do not lessen the risk of stroke, but they may lessen
its severity. Similar promising results have also been found with
blueberries, which are also in the Vaccinium genus.

The results were presented at the national meeting of the American
Chemical Society.