A diet rich in cocoa flavanols, can play an important role in maintaining cognitive health as people age, according to researchers from Italy's University of L'Aquila.
Lead author Dr. Giovambattista Desideri said, "The results of this study are encouraging as they support the idea that diet plays a role in maintaining cognitive health."
Researchers conducted two studies to investigate the effects cocoa flavanols have on the brain. During the first study, they found cognitive and cardiometabolic benefits of habitual cocoa flavanol consumption in older adults who had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). During the second study, researchers looked to address the benefits of cocoa flavanols on cognitive function among individuals without MCI. Men and women aged 61-85 years with no evidence of cognitive dysfunction were enrolled for the study. Study participants 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.
Cognitive function was assessed at the start of the study and again after eight weeks, by using a battery of tests that examined memory, retention, recall, as well as executive function. Among individuals who regularly consumed either the high- or intermediate-flavanol drinks, there were significant improvements in overall cognitive function after only eight weeks. This study suggests that even cognitively healthy individuals can quickly benefit from the regular inclusion of cocoa flavanols in their diets.
The first study was published in the journal Hypertension in 2012, while the second has been published in the AJCN.