Cocoa and chocolate 'can boost cognition'

03 July 2017

Another reason to tuck into that chocolate.

Here's some good news for chocoholics - cocoa can be beneficial for human cognition!

Academics from University of L'Aquila in Italy have examined a range of studies undertaken on the effect of cocoa flavanols on the brain and the impact that a Cocoa flavanol-enriched diet has on the body.

Accordingly, it was found that participants showed enhancements in working memory performance and improved visual information processing after eating cocoa flavanols.

And in elderly groups, the effects of ingestion of cocoa flavanols (ranging from five days up to three months) was striking, with cognitive performance generally improved and factors such as attention, processing speed, working memory and verbal fluency greatly affected.

Read more: Chocolate consumption good for heart

"This result suggests the potential of cocoa flavanols protect cognition in vulnerable populations over time by improving cognitive performance," said study co-authors Valentina Socci and Michele Ferrara. "If you look at the underlying mechanism, the cocoa flavanols have beneficial effects for cardiovascular health and can increase cerebral blood volume in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus (in the brain)."

The researchers also claimed that women who consumed cocoa after a night of total sleep deprivation "counteracted the cognitive impairment" that such behaviour typically leads to.

Socci and Ferrara were so impressed by the review results that they also suggested high-quality forms of cocoa could be considered as a dietary supplement, especially dark chocolate, which is known to be a rich source of flavanols.

Read more: Cut chocolate cravings by visualising a forest

"Regular intake of cocoa and chocolate could indeed provide beneficial effects on cognitive functioning over time,” the pair added. “There are, however, potential side effects of eating cocoa and chocolate. Those are generally linked to the caloric value of chocolate, some inherent chemical compounds of the cocoa plant such as caffeine and theobromine, and a variety of additives we add to chocolate such as sugar or milk."

The full review has been published in journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

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