S u m m a r y :
Cocoa protects human cognition, suggests a new study published in Frontiers in Nutrition.
Cocoa, A Dietary Supplement?
Chocolate is good for you, says an increasing body of research, the latest one of which (a review) highlights its positive effects on cognition. Cocoa might become a dietary supplement consumed to protect from cognitive decline; a daily intake of the food item actually boost memory, says the new study.
Cocoa Flavanols & Neurones
The new research is based on literature documenting the influence of cocoa flavanols on cognition; flavanols are natural compounds previously shown to be beneficial to cells of the nervous system called neurones, and they are found in abundance in the cocoa bean. The researchers analysed the data gathered on the acute and chronic administration of the cocoa flavanols on cognition. They looked into the effects of these compounds on the brain few hours after consuming them together with the long-term consequences.
Cocoa Heals From Sleep Deprivation
The findings of the studies put under the microscope generally show that participants would have better memory, and enhanced visual information processing after the intake of cocoa flavanols. Furthermore, cocoa appeared to counteract the negative effects of sleep deprivation, a feature displayed by women specifically: having cocoa after a night of total lack of sleep seemed to undo cognitive impairment associated with sleep deprivation. This finding brings hope to people suffering from chronic lack of sleep, like people working late-night shifts.
Chocolate for the Elderly Everyday!
Also, the elderly might be benefiting more from chocolate. The review shows that a daily intake of the flavanols greatly enhances their cognitive performance, from attention, processing speed to working memory and verbal fluency. This is particularly true for older adults experiencing mild memory decline and similar impairments. Cocoa flavanols would, thus, potentially be a long-term solution for vulnerable populations, suggest authors Valentina Socci and Michele Ferrara from the University of L’Aquila, Italy.
Cocoa Benefits Your Brain Through Your Heart
How does this work, though? How does cocoa benefit cognition? According to the authors, the flavanols improve cardiovascular health, thereby increasing the blood supply reaching the brain, including its areas involved in memory formation, such as the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. The latter is said to be affected by ageing, and might, thus, be playing a role in age-related memory decline.
Should cocoa be considered a dietary supplement to benefit our cognitive power, then? The researchers explain that a regular consumption thereof might bring positive effects in the long term. However, other factors should also be considered, such as the caloric value of the chocolate, and the additional effects of other compounds present in cocoa like caffeine. Moreover, while cocoa is beneficial, chocolate itself consists of many other ingredients like sugar and milk, which come with their own set of effects. The scientists do add that dark chocolate is rich in flavanols, and that they are already practising what their findings are preaching: eating dark chocolate everyday.