Here's how chocolate can keep your brain sharp as you age

  • ANI, Washington
  • Updated: Jan 07, 2015 15:28 IST

Scientists have revealed that a diet rich in cocoa flavanols, can play an important role in maintaining cognitive health as people age.

This study, conducted by researchers from Italy's University of L'Aquila and Mars, Incorporated, reinforces the results of several recent cognitive studies--throwing more light on the important role diet plays in maintaining cognitive health.

Dr. Giovambattista Desideri, lead author on the paper said that the results of this study are encouraging--they support the idea that diet.

This study was the second installment in a two-part investigation by this team into the effects cocoa flavanols have on the brain. The first study found cognitive and cardio-metabolic benefits of habitual cocoa flavanol consumption in older adults who had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Despite these findings, the question of the benefits of cocoa flavanols on cognitive function among individuals without MCI remained uncertain.

This second study looked to address this question. Enrolling men and women aged 61-85 years with no evidence of cognitive dysfunction, the participants in this controlled, randomized, double-blind study were assigned to one of three flavanol groups, consuming a drink containing either high (993 mg), intermediate (520 mg) or low (48 mg) amounts of cocoa flavanols every day for eight weeks. The nutritionally matched drinks were specially prepared. The high- and intermediate-flavanol cocoa drinks were produced using Mars' patented Cocoapro process, while the low-flavanol drink was made with a highly processed, alkalized cocoa powder. Other than the inclusion of the test drink, normal diets and regular lifestyle were maintained throughout the study.

At the start of the study and again after eight weeks, cognitive function was assessed using a battery of tests that examined memory, retention, recall, as well as executive function. Among those individuals who regularly consumed either the high- or intermediate-flavanol drinks, there were significant improvements in overall cognitive function after only eight weeks. As cognitive function was normal for this aged population, this study shows that even cognitively healthy individuals can quickly benefit from the regular inclusion of cocoa flavanols in their diets.

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