How cocoa flavanols improve brain function

How cocoa flavanols improve brain function

In addition to the body, mental health is also strongly influenced by daily nutrition .

For some time there has been talk of the many beneficial properties of cocoa and dark chocolate , but a new one would be added to those already known .

Through a study conducted by the Universities of Birmingham and Illinois it was in fact discovered that cocoa would help improve mental agility , enhancing speed and brilliance of execution, in young and healthy adults.

According to the research, published in Scientific Reports, the credit goes to the flavanols contained in cocoa.

Benefits of Cocoa

Cocoa and chocolate , especially the dark one , are rich in antioxidants , real cure-alls for the body that are good for a little bit of everything: from digestion to cardio -vascular  health , to the brain .

These are all the specific benefits of dark chocolate .

Other antioxidant drinks are red sage tea or Karkadè .

The tryptophan and magnesium present in them, for example, stimulate the synthesis of serotonin , the hormone of happiness, and improve the quality of sleep .

Cacao also helps natural endorphin production .

And molecules like catechin and epicatechin help balance the intestines and influence insulin resistance , decreasing the risk of diabetes .

Without forgetting the great hand that eating a square of dark chocolate regularly can give to memory maintenance .

The most valuable antioxidant – flavanol

Among the positive substances present in cocoa, the most precious one for the body, capable of really affecting in terms of well-being, is flav lo , which is also found in other vegetable foods, such as fruit, vegetables , tea and red wine . This antioxidant molecule improves the elasticity of blood vessels , promotes lowering of blood pressure , reduces tiredness and improves memory.

If various investigations had already demonstrated for some time that the latter effect was especially true in the elderly, the new study proves that flavanols improve cognitive performance even in young and healthy individuals.

How the research took place

To arrive at this conclusion, researchers from the Universities of Birmingham and Illinois at Urbana-Champaign examined 18 adult males between the ages of 18 and 45 , non- smokers and with no history of brain, heart, vascular or respiratory disease.

The group was randomly divided into two sub-groups : the members of one were made to drink a natural cocoa drink, rich in flavanols, and the others a drink that looked identical but was actually weakened and had very low levels of flavanols. No one during the experiment was aware of what type of cocoa they were taking.

The link between cocoa and brain health

After two hours, each person was asked to breathe air containing 5% carbon dioxide , a standard and often used method for challenging the cerebral vasculature and studying their reactions.

“The normal response of the body subjected to this type of stress would be to increase blood flow to the brain, bringing more oxygen and thus allowing carbon dioxide to be eliminated,” explained research co-author Gabriele Gratton. “What we noticed in this case is that the group whose participants ate cocoa concentrated in flavanols proved to be better able to defend themselves from excess carbon dioxide than the other”.

More specifically, “the maximum oxygenation levels were more than three times higher in those who ate cocoa with a high content of the beneficial molecule, compared to that with a low content, and the oxygenation response was about a minute faster,” he said. specified one of the researchers of the study, Catarina Randeiro.

An afternoon nap would also be very useful for improving brain capacity in the over 60s.
With the passage of time, however, the area of ​​the brain responsible for memory deteriorates but there are methods to preserve it.

Here’s what happens to eating chocolate every day.

The results of the study

This increased brain activity was demonstrated by the results of cognitive tests with progressive difficulty that the researchers had before and after drinking the drink.

Those who consumed the flavanol-enriched cocoa-based drink fared better in solving the required tests than those who did not.

All of them also delivered the solutions faster and more accurately, finishing the exercises on average one minute earlier than the others.


“Having taken the flavanol-rich drink only clearly proved to be an advantage when the test became more complicated . And this result suggests that these elements could be useful not only for elderly people as we thought, but also for young and healthy people, who could therefore wisely decide to take a dose of cocoa or chocolate before or during particularly demanding and important appointments or tests. cognitive point of view,” explained researcher Catarina Randeiro.

Based on these findings, it can therefore be argued that cocoa can support brain health and cognitive functioning in most people. During the experiment, in fact, only 4 participants did not see improvements, but these are subjects who already had very high oxygenation responses before the study. This may indicate that those with more than normal mental speed have little room for improvement.



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