Cocoa boosts cognitive skills in humans: Study
Researchers at the University of L’Aquila in Italy revealed that the consumption of cocoa flavanols has a beneficial effect on human cognition. Furthermore, they discovered that for women, eating cocoa after a night of total sleep deprivation actually counteracted the cognitive impairment (i.e. less accuracy in performing routine tasks). Experts believe that these findings may offer relief for people that suffer from chronic sleep deprivation or work shifts.
The experts examined effect of cocoa flavanols on the brain and the impact that a cocoa flavanol-enriched diet has on a human body. They discovered that in clinical trials, participants showed enhancements in working memory performance and improved visual information processing after having cocoa flavanols.
It has to be noted though, that the effects depended on the length and mental load of the used cognitive tests to measure the effect of acute cocoa consumption.
In elderly groups, the effects of cocoa flavanols (ranging from five days up to three months) were striking, with an improved cognitive performance and various factors such as attention, processing speed, working memory and verbal fluency were greatly affected.
“This result suggests the potential of cocoa flavanols to protect the 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),” they added.
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.
The research was published in the Frontiers Research Topic “Chocolate and Health: Friend or Foe?”.