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Though the vibrant red cranberry is mostly associated with the holidays, when it comes to our health, they are a true superfood—in fact, native to North America, they are America’s original superfood! Besides their incredible track record for preventing and treating urinary tract infections (UTIs), there are two additional health benefits that warrant adding cranberry supplements to your vitamin routine: immune support and maintaining a healthy aging brain. It’s no wonder we’re falling in love with this tiny, mighty little berry all over again and why you will, too!
Each year, seasonal influenza viruses lead to miserable symptoms and lost days from work and play. However, there is exciting new research on proanthocyanidins, the bioactive compounds in cranberries that are potent antivirals and appear to be effective in preventing the spread of the flu. In one in vitro study researchers discovered that cranberry extract inhibited both influenza A and B virus replication. Interestingly, the same anti-adhesive activities of cranberry against bacteria in the urinary tract, which make it one of the best supplements for a urinary tract infection, may also help it prevent viral attachment to healthy cells within the body.1
Other studies looking at the effects of cranberry supplementation on immune health also show its solid ability to ward off cold and flu symptoms. In a randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled study, 10 weeks of consumption of a beverage containing cranberry powder resulted in a fivefold increase in the production of T-cells, a 30 percent increase in natural killer (NK) cell proliferation, and a 20 percent reduction in pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin (IL)-17 secretion—all vital to the function of a healthy immune system.2
In the same study, the subjects taking the cranberry powder had fewer cold and flu symptoms compared to those consuming the placebo. Furthermore, the number of illnesses, total missed workdays, and decrease in activities were lower in the cranberry group, with the researchers concluding that “consumption of cranberry phytochemicals was shown to modify certain aspects of immune function, suggesting that consuming cranberries may help support immune health.”3
Aging gracefully and with gusto can be a challenge for many, especially when it’s associated with cognitive decline. In fact, the rate of dementia is projected to double every 20 years, affecting an estimated 152 million individuals by 2050.4 Factors such as diet and exercise are believed to play a role in the process. In particular, polyphenol-rich fruits like berries have been recognized for their protection against age-related neurodegeneration.
A May 2022 parallel, randomized, placebo-controlled study published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition aimed to determine the impact of cranberry supplementation on cognitive function in adults 50–80 years old. Dr. David Vauzour, Ph.D., lead researcher of the study and a senior research fellow in Molecular Nutrition at Norwich Medical School University of East Anglia (UK) said, “Past studies have shown that higher dietary flavonoid intake is associated with slower rates of cognitive decline and dementia. And foods rich in anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins, which give berries their red, blue, or purple color, have been found to improve cognition.”5
In the study, 60 adults took either 9 grams (split into two 4.5-gram sachets) per day of cranberry powder, equivalent to a cup of fresh cranberries, or a placebo for 12 weeks. Memory and executive function assessments, including processing speed, working memory, episodic memory, and special navigation, as well as neuroimaging and blood samples, were conducted before and after to determine the impact of cranberry consumption on cognition and brain function.6 7
Results showed that subjects taking the cranberry powder saw “significant improvements” in memory of everyday events, neural functioning, and delivery of blood to the brain and saw a significant decrease in LDL cholesterol during the course of supplementation. “We found that the participants who consumed the cranberry powder showed significantly improved episodic memory performance in combination with an improved circulation of essential nutrients such as oxygen and glucose to important parts of the brain that support cognition—specifically memory consolidation and retrieval,” said Dr. Vauzour.8 9
Whether you’re in search of an effective way to bolster your immune system during the change in seasons, or you’re looking for a new approach to support your changing, aging brain, cranberries have your back. Stay well and stay sharp with cranberry supplements!
Propolis is a resin that honeybees produce to protect and provide structural support to their hives.10 It’s been used for thousands of years for its medicinal properties as an antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immunomodulatory agent.11 Greeks used it to treat abscesses, Assyrians put it on wounds and tumors to fight infection and help the healing process, and Egyptians used it to embalm mummies.12 Today, it’s used to fight infections, heal wounds, treat candida, eliminate cold sores, fight cancer, and more.
Researchers have identified more than 300 compounds in propolis, many of which are forms of polyphenols that help modulate inflammation and immune responses in the body. Propolis has been shown to increase the number of immune cells, boost immune cell activities, enhance antibody production, activate macrophages (increasing numbers, responsiveness, and bacteria killing abilities), and increase natural killer cell activity.13
One study that included young children indicated that propolis extract may naturally prevent, as well as shorten the duration, of the common cold. In the study, an aqueous propolis extract was given to a group of preschool and young school-aged children for the entire duration of a year’s cold season. The children treated with propolis had fewer colds with acute or chronic symptoms.14
Coupling cranberry’s immune system benefits with propolis’ may provide synergistic benefits: Propolis has been shown to increase cranberry’s effectiveness in reducing urinary tract infections by amplifying cranberry’s proanthocyanidins, preventing bacteria adhesion, bacterial replication, and degree of bacterial infection.15