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Cocoa Flavonols May Improve Brain Blood Flow

New research recently published in the Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment Journal suggest that phytochemicals called flavanols which are found in chocolate, fruits and vegetables may increase blood flow to the brain.

In the recent study, researchers recruited 34 healthy adults between the ages of 59 and 83. The participants were divided into two groups. The first group included 13 people who were given a flavanol rich cocoa drink which they consumed for two weeks. The remaining 21 were randomly assigned to drink either a flavanol rich cocoa beverage or a flavanol poor cocoa beverage for one week.

Researchers analyzed the participant's blood flow in the middle cerebral artery using an ultrasound. The results from the double-masked, placebo-controlled study found that two weeks of consuming at flavanol rich beverage was associated with a 10% increase in blood flow.

In the second part of the experiment, the group whose study ran one week, 55% of participants drinking the flavanol rich beverage saw an increase in blood flow vs only 10% in the flavanol poor group.

According to researchers, long term improvements in blood flow could lead to improved cognitive function for people with debilitating brain conditions like dementia and stroke. These brain conditions are often characterized by poor blood circulation to the brain, which can cause serious structural damage.

This study is thought to be the first of its kind to examine the acute and short term benefits of flavanols on brain blood flow. More testing needs to be done but these results do add to a growing body of evidence that flavanol rich cocoa may provide a simple dietary means to improve cardiovascular and brain health.

Source: Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment.
Volume 4, Pages 433-440
"Cerebral blood flow response to flavanol-rich cocoa in healthy elderly humans"
Authors: F.A. Sorond, L.A. Lipsitz, N.K. Hollenberg, N.D.L. Fisher
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