Cocoa consumption might improve Memory Function in Elderly

Credit: National Cancer Institute Renee Comet (Photographer) - PD

(Best Syndication News) - A study found that eating cocoa flavanols on a daily basis might help to improve mild cognitive impairment such as memory loss. The study results were published in the American Heart Association's journal Hypertension.

Flavonols are compounds that naturally occur in apples, tea, grapes, red wine, and cocoa. Other research has suggested that consumption of flavonols might reduce the risk of developing dementia.

One theory as to why flavonols may benefit the brain is that they could help improve blood flow. Another idea is that flavonols might work within the brain structure and thereby preserving function and neurons. The idea is that the flavonols might improve metabolism and may help with the molecular structure that is involved with memory.

The small study involved 90 elderly participants who were identified as having mild cognitive impairment. They were randomly assigned to either drink 990 milligrams (mg), 520 mg, or 45 mg of a dairy beverage with cocoa flavonol. The participants drank their assigned amount for eight weeks. The participants all had their diet restricted to get rid of any other sources of flavonols.

The study was funded by Mars Inc. who also provided the standardized cocoa drinks.

The researchers measured the participants’ cognitive function with neuro-psychological testing of their executive function, working memory, short-term memory, long-term episodic memory, processing speed, and global cognition.

The results of the study indicated that the participants in the 990 mg and the 520 mg groups had significant improvements in their scoring for brain function. The improvements were mostly seen with their visual stimuli to motor responses, working memory, task-switching, and verbal memory. The ones that had the highest intake of cocoa flavanols (990 mg group) had overall test scores for cognitive function that were significantly higher than those that were given smaller amounts.

Benefits of a decrease in insulin resistance, blood pressure, and oxidative stress were found with the 990 mg and 520 mg groups. The insulin resistance change helped around 40 percent of the participants to improve their combined score with the cognitive function test.

Giovambattista Desideri, M.D., study lead author and director of Geriatric Division, Department of Life, Health and Environmental Sciences, University of L'Aquila in Italy, explained that cocoa flavanols, if eaten in a healthy-balanced diet, might help improve cognitive function.

Desideri also said that a larger study would be needed to prove their findings in this experiment.

By: Marsha Quinn
Health Reporter

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