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article imageWhy daily chocolate treats might be good for cognition

By Tim Sandle     Jul 5, 2017 in Science
Food research is a veritable feast of ideas. The latest offering is that the administration of cocoa flavanols affects cognitive function, to the degree that cognitive performance can be improved by a daily intake of cocoa flavanols.
The cocoa bean is a rich source of flavanols. These are a class of natural compounds that could have neuroprotective effects. The question that stems from this is whether consuming cocoa, such as in the form of chocolate, leads to positive effects in people.
The cocoa bean (cacao bean) is the dried and fully fermented seed of Theobroma cacao, from which cocoa solids and, because of the seed's fat, cocoa butter can be extracted. The "beans" are the basis of chocolate.
Italian researchers have undertaken a widespread literature review considering variations with the administration of cocoa flavanols on cognition. The primary focus was on whether changes occur with the human brain a few hours after a person has eaten cocoa flavanols; and also what happens if cocoa flavanols are consumed regularly over a long period of time.
Flavanols are a type of polyphenol, which are a broad group of natural compounds found in plants. Many polyphenols, including flavanols, play a protective role for plants. They may also provide a protective or antioxidant effect for people. The flavanols found in cacao include catechins and tannins.
The literature review suggested that cocoa flavanols have a beneficial effect on cognitive performance. Some studies showed enhancements in working memory performance and improved visual information processing. There were additionally some promising results for those who suffer from chronic sleep deprivation or work shifts.
These effects, however varied, depending upon the length of time cocoa flavanols were consumed over and there were also variances with the types of cognitive tests taken. With long-term ingestion of cocoa flavanols (from 5 days up to 3 months) this had a generally good effect, especially with elderly individuals. This included better attention, processing speed, and working memory.
These findings suggest that cocoa flavanols have the potential to improve to cognition. As well as having scope as a dietary supplement to boost cognition cocoa could also help to protect human cognition and counteract different types of cognitive decline, such as neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. This area will require further, detailed research.
Nevertheless the experimental outcomes suggest some merits in consuming a limited amount of dark chocolate (a rich source of flavanols) each day. The findings are published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition. The research paper is titled “Enhancing Human Cognition with Cocoa Flavonoids.”
More about Brain power, cognition, Chocolate, Cocoa, Flavonoids
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