Daily cocoa consumption may soon be prescribed to older adults who wish to slow or even reverse cognitive declines. A 2015 study is providing important insights into the association between the flavanols in cocoa and memory performance.
Flavanols naturally occur in a variety of foods, including dark chocolate, broccoli, green tea, strawberries, blueberries, red grapes, red wine, and apples. Scientists are now discovering that the mix of flavanols in cocoa are unique and not only contribute to the bitter taste of the cocoa, but have amazing health benefits.
In a study published in 2015 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it was reported that researchers tested the hypothesis that regular consumption of a drink containing cocoa flavanols would be effective in improving cognitive performance in individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). It is estimated that up to 20 percent of adults aged 65 or older have MCI (Alzheimer’s Reading Room, 2015).
In the study, 90 older adults with MCI were randomly assigned to consume a cocoa flavanol drink once daily for eight weeks. The research team assessed cognitive function using a variety of standard tests that look at various aspects of memory, cognitive processing speed, executive function and global cognition.
The researchers found a reduction of up to 30 percent in response times of the study participants who consumed flavanol-rich drinks. Scores on the verbal fluency test were also significantly better. Those drinking cocoa also had lower blood pressures and increased sensitivity to insulin. These findings are one more example of the importance of a healthy diet, especially as we age.
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Tracy Davenport, Ph.D., is a freelance health writer and the C.E.O. of Tracy’s Smoothie Place. She serves as the expert on a weekly radio show about health and wellness and is the author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux and multiple articles about the cost of caregiving. Learn more about Tracy and what healthy living services and products she can offer on her website. She can also be found on Twitter and Instagram @drinksmoothies.