In a recent review published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, researchers at the University of L’Aquila, Italy, examining at length the available literature on the intake of cocoa flavanols in participants revealed cocoa to have beneficial effects on their cognitive abilities. The review included studies on the impact of acute as well as chronic administration of cocoa flavanols on various cognitive functions.
The revelation by scientists, first of its kind, could pave way for cocoa and chocolate, especially dark chocolate, to be considered as dietary supplement to boost our cognition, in the not-so-distant future. Already, cocoa bean has been accepted to be a rich source of flavanols, a type of natural compounds known for its neuroprotective and cardiovascular benefits.
Acute Consumption Stalls Cognitive Impairment in Sleep-Deprived People
Inputs from a large number of randomized controlled trials for the acute consumption of cocoa flavanols in participants point to scores of beneficial effects. Key effects include people showing an increase in working memory performance and a boost in visual information processing. When women, who were deprived of a night’s sleep, consumed cocoa flavanols they reportedly experienced a slowing down of their cognitive impairment. There were similar effects on people suffering with chronic sleep deprivation.
Prolonged Ingestion of Cocoa Improves Cognition in Elderly
Similar promising results were noted in a number of studies covering the prolonged intake or ingestion of the cocoa flavanols—in the range of 5 days to 3 months—by elderly population. The daily intake of cocoa improved their cognitive performance. Positive results were noticed in various parameters such as processing speed, attention, verbal fluency, and working memory. The affect was more evident in elderly people who are showing signs of a memory decline or suffering with light cognitive impairments.
According to the authors, Michele Ferrara and Valentina Socci, the results from a wide number of studies underscore the beneficial cognitive effects of cocoa flavanols in large section of vulnerable populations.
Nonetheless, significant risks of side effects of eating cocoa exist. These are attributed to these containing large amount of calories and laced with various additives.