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Can cocoa improve cognitive function?


A new discovery is flavanols What is found in cocoa and other foods and drinks can enhance cognitive function.

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Although the health benefits of flavanol for cardiovascular health have long been understood, a new study conducted at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom found that flavanol consumption and increased psychological agility in healthy young participants. This is the first study to show a relationship.

Many health benefits of flavonols

For decades, scientists have been interested in the potential health benefits of ingesting foods and beverages that contain flavonoids. The findings of various research projects suggest a prophylactic role for flavonoids, and there are studies demonstrating the potential function of flavonoids in the prevention of heart disease, stroke and dementia.

Flavanols, a subgroup of flavonoids, are naturally occurring molecules in foods such as apples, berries, cocoa, grapes and tea. Extensive studies have established a role in promoting cardiovascular health, but little evidence has been obtained to substantiate the effects of flavanol consumption on brain function.

This month, a research team at the University of Birmingham published the results of a new study in the journal. Science report This will give you a better understanding of the health benefits of consuming foods that contain high levels of flavanols.

Effects of flavonols on cognitive function

Researchers in this study recruited 18 men between the ages of 18 and 40 to participate in the study. The research team used two measures of cognitive function. They measured blood oxygen saturation in the prefrontal cortex of the brain and the performance of complex cognitive tests.

All participants were asked to inhale air containing a 5% carbon dioxide concentration. This is the standard procedure for inducing hypercapnia, which makes blood circulation in the brain difficult. Researchers will be able to measure changes in blood oxygen levels using non-invasive near-infrared spectroscopy and monitor changes in blood oxygen saturation in the frontal cortex after the induction of hypercapnia. Did.

After inhaling carbon dioxide-rich air, participants were asked to complete a series of increasingly complex cognitive tasks. Participants completed four cognitive tests. Before and after drinking flavanol-rich cocoa drinks and before and after regular cocoa drinks.

The results of this study found that blood oxygen saturation of participants who responded to hypercapnia after ingesting a flavonol-rich cocoa beverage was at the level observed after ingesting a non-flavonol-rich cocoa beverage. It was shown to be about 3 times. These elevated levels after ingestion of concentrated beverages also reached up to 1 minute earlier than the peak seen in those who drank non-concentrated beverages.

Cognitive test results show that after drinking a fortified drink, participants were able to complete the task faster and more accurately, and men were able to complete the task 11% faster on average. I did.

Increased cerebral blood oxygen saturation and cognitive ability

The results of this study show that flavonol intake can improve cognitive function when the brain needs to complete sufficiently complex tasks.

This can be associated with results on improved blood oxygen saturation. If further challenged, the brain needs to improve blood oxygen levels to manage the challenge. It also suggests that flavanols may be particularly beneficial during cognitively demanding work.

Dr. Catalina Lendero

Interestingly, the researchers observed that for a small proportion of the participants, they did not benefit from drinking flavanol-rich drinks.

Data collected via non-invasive near-infrared spectroscopy reveal that the group already had high levels of cerebral oxygenation reactions and are unlikely to benefit from further increases. Did. This additional evidence helps support the link shown between increased cerebral blood oxygen saturation and cognitive performance.

Journal reference:

  • Rendeiro et al (2020). “Diet flavanols improve oxygenation and cognition in the cerebral cortex of healthy adults.” Scientific Reports, http: //


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