Cocoa-rich diets could boost memory: Study

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London | Updated: January 7, 2015 6:33:23 PM

Dietary cocoa flavanols - naturally occurring bioactives found in cocoa - can reverse age-related memory decline...

Dietary cocoa flavanols – naturally occurring bioactives found in cocoa – can reverse age-related memory decline in healthy adults, a new study has found, reinforcing results from several recent cognitive studies.

“The results of this study are encouraging – they support the idea that diet, and specifically a diet rich in cocoa flavanols, can play an important role in maintaining cognitive health as we age,” lead author Dr Giovambattista Desideri from Italy’s University of L’Aquila.

Enrolling men and women aged 61-85 years with no evidence of cognitive dysfunction, the participants in this controlled, randomised, 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.

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.

In addition to evaluating cognitive function, the researchers also monitored insulin resistance, blood pressure and other metabolic markers.

There was also evidence of improvements in these cardiometabolic outcomes. In the high- and intermediate-flavanol groups, both systolic and diastolic blood pressures were reduced and insulin resistance was significantly improved.

The study was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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