Throughout the years, many researchers have studied the effects of cocoa on brain function, with their research suggesting that cocoa may reduce the risk of cognitive decline as people age. A new study published in the latest issue of Neurology adds to this research, finding that cocoa increases blood flow to the brain. Blood flow is an important aspect of cognitive thinking, according to ABC News.
During the study, 60 elderly adults were randomly assigned either two cups of flavanol-rich or two cups of flavanol-poor cocoa every day for a month. According to Forbes, “flavanols are a type of polyphenol-antioxidants found in foods like cocoa, tea, berries and wine.” When found in food, flavanols have been linked with improved heart and brain health. The researchers tested the participants’ memory and thinking skills before and after they drank cocoa for a month. Additionally, a type of ultrasound was administered to measure blood flow in the brain.
The researchers found that there were no differences in cognitive abilities with high and low-flavanol groups. On the other hand, those who had limited blood flow to the brain and white matter damage showed a difference after drinking cocoa for a month. The researchers saw an improvement of blood flow of about 8 percent. The participants with limited blood flow also completed a working memory test 51 seconds faster on average.
In spite of the study that supports earlier research on the positive effects cocoa may have on improving blood flow to the brain, the researchers say it is unknown which compound in cocoa is responsible for the increased blood flow. It is also unknown exactly how cocoa can do this. The researchers say that, in the future, “regular cocoa consumption may be a strategy to minimize (perhaps even reverse) cerebral vascular pathology in neurodegenerative disorders, regardless of its flavanol content.”