The Cognitive Benefits of Chocolate: New Study Reveals Promising Results
Chocolate has long been associated with pleasure and indulgence, but new research suggests that it may also have cognitive benefits for older adults.
A recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that cocoa extract supplements containing 500 mg of cocoa flavanols per day improved cognitive function in older adults with poor diets.
This article will explore the findings of the study and provide insights into the potential benefits of chocolate for cognitive health.
Cocoa Flavanols: The Key to Cognitive Benefits?
Cocoa flavanols are a type of antioxidant found in chocolate that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which may reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.
The study found that participants who took cocoa extract supplements containing 80 milligrams of epicatechin, a specific flavanol found in cocoa, had better cognitive function than those who received a placebo.
The research team evaluated the effect of cocoa extract on 573 adults over the age of 60 and found that those who took cocoa extract compared to the placebo "had no statistically significant benefit on global cognition over two years."
However, they did find suggestive benefits for cognitive function among those with poorer habitual diet quality at baseline, including improvements in episodic memory.
The study suggests that consuming cocoa flavanols may have a protective effect on brain health, particularly for older adults with poor diets. However more research is needed to determine if larger doses of cocoa extract could improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of dementia.
While the study provides promising results, there are some caveats and limitations to consider:
The study was funded in part by Mars, a company that produces chocolate products. While the researchers assure that the funding did not influence the results, it is important to consider potential biases when interpreting the findings.
The study only included participants over the age of 60, so more research is needed to determine if cocoa flavanols have similar cognitive benefits for younger adults.
The study used a 500-milligram dose of cocoa extract, which is much higher than what one would typically consume in a typical chocolate bar. It is unclear whether smaller doses would have the same cognitive benefits.
The study did not evaluate the long-term effects of cocoa flavanols on cognitive function. More research is needed to determine if the benefits are sustained over time.
While the study provides evidence that cocoa flavanols may have cognitive benefits for older adults, it is important to approach these findings with caution and consider the limitations of the study. Further research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits of chocolate for cognitive health and to determine if cocoa flavanols are a viable strategy for reducing the risk of dementia.
In the meantime, enjoy your chocolate in moderation! A small amount of dark chocolate (with at least 70% cocoa content) can provide some of the cognitive benefits associated with cocoa flavanols without overindulging in calories or sugar.
For those seeking a more concentrated source of cocoa flavanols, consider incorporating cacao powder into your diet. Just 10 grams of cacao powder can deliver a substantial 350mg of cocoa flavanols.
This versatile ingredient can be seamlessly blended into hot water or milk to create a comforting cup of hot chocolate, adding a delicious twist to your pursuit of cognitive well-being.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is a habitual diet quality, and why does it matter for cognitive function?
Habitual diet quality refers to the overall pattern of food consumption in an individual's diet. A diet high in fat, salt, sugar, and ultra-processed foods has been shown to increase the risk of cognitive decline, while a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein is associated with better cognitive function.
2. Can I get the same cognitive benefits from eating chocolate as I would from taking cocoa extract supplements?
It is unclear whether consuming chocolate directly provides the same cognitive benefits as taking cocoa extract supplements. The study used a 500-milligram dose of cocoa flavanols, which is much higher than what one would typically consume in a typical chocolate bar. However, some dark chocolate products may contain up to 200 milligrams of epicatechin per ounce, which could provide some cognitive benefits.
3. Is it safe to consume high amounts of cocoa flavanols?
While the study did not identify any adverse effects associated with consuming cocoa flavanols, more research is needed to determine if high doses are safe for long-term consumption. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before taking any supplements, including cocoa extract.
4. Can I use chocolate as a cognitive booster?
While the study provides some evidence that cocoa flavanols may have cognitive benefits, it is not clear whether consuming chocolate can be used as a reliable cognitive booster. More research is needed to determine if chocolate can provide consistent cognitive benefits and how much would be required for this purpose.
This article is for general information only and is not intended to treat or diagnose medical conditions. If in doubt please check with your GP first.