Drinking cocoa may boost brain power
Recent research has shown that cocoa flavanols improve blood oxygenation in the frontal regions of the brain, potentially contributing to better cognition under high demands.
The study included 18 healthy men, aged 18–45 years, who were made to consume either a high-flavanol (HF) or low-flavanol (LF) cocoa drink over two visits, at least 2 weeks apart. At the third visit, participants were subjected to a hypercapnic challenge, after which brain scans and cognitive assessments were performed.
Two-way repeated-measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) showed that the HF vs LF intervention was associated with a significantly better oxygenation response to the challenge, measured as the average amplitude change 3–4 minutes after breathing onset (p=0.025). Notably, such a difference was absent at baseline (p=0.993), and that the spike in oxy-haemoglobin levels occurred after HF intake (p=0.03).
In addition, during a modified Stroop test, participants who were assigned to receive the HF intervention performed better than their LF comparators, particularly under the Double-Stroop task, which was able to statistically differentiate the former from the latter group (p=0.029).
“The findings reported here can have important future implications for using dietary strategies containing plant-derived flavanols for enhancement of blood oxygenation and cognitive performance in healthy populations, as well as for populations at higher risk, or to help recover and treat brain injuries and disease,” the authors said.
“Most importantly, our data can potentially open new avenues for precision-medicine research with regard to understanding individual responses to flavanol intake and helping to identify populations that might benefit the most from these interventions,” they added.