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Cocoa Flavanols May Improve Cognitive Performance Later in Life

As we age, many of us experience a decline in cognitive function. A recent study suggests that consuming the flavanols found in cocoa may have a positive effect on attention, processing speed, working memory, and verbal fluency in mature adults.

Researchers from the University of L’Aquila in Italy reviewed data from 50 randomized controlled trials. The participants in the study ranged from middle aged to elderly.

After examining the data, the researchers found that drinking a flavanol-rich coca drink daily was associated with better performance in adults with early memory decline as well as those who were cognitively intact. Specifically, participants who consumed a high flavanol drink performed better on the Trail Making A and Trail Making B tests, and had significantly higher scores on verbal fluency tests.

Additionally, the researchers noted a link between cocoa flavonol intake and improvements in blood pressure. They believe this improvement in endothelial function may result in improved blood flow in the brain and better cerebrovascular communication.

The study was published on May 16, 2017, in Frontiers in Nutrition.

Flavanols are the naturally occurring antioxidants found in cocoa which have previously been shown to help decrease inflammation, protect DNA from damage and improve heart and brain health by increasing blood flow.

It is important to note that not all cocoa products are created equal: chocolates with a higher percentage of cocoa tend to be much healthier. This is because darker chocolate has higher levels of flavanols and also because milk chocolates are higher in fat and, often, sugar content.

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