Cocoa Polyphenols improve brain function andenergy

April 07, 2009

Flavanols are the healthy nutrients plentiful in dark cocoa; new research shows they fight fatigue and hone mental sharpness, according to scientists at the Brain Performance and Nutrition Center at Northumbria University in Newcastle, UK. The researchers gave 30 people a series of math tests before and after having either a Flavanol-loaded chocolate drink or a placebo beverage. On a test that required repeatedly subtracting numbers, volunteers who got the Flavanols-rich drink performed better than those drinking the dummy drink. In addition, the Flavanols seemed to offset the fatigue from the intense mental concentration. “We asked them about their mental fatigue, and that increased, but the cocoa offset that increase,” said researcher Crystal Haskell. The brain-boosting effect is tied to Flavanols’ ability to dilate blood vessels, allowing more blood to reach important areas of the brain.

The study also found that a 500 mg dose of Flavanols worked best. If you get that from chocolate that’s the equivalent of five bars with all of the sugar and fat that are added amounting to massive doses of calories. “The amounts we were giving them were more than you would get from eating small amounts in diet,” said co-researcher David Kennedy, “But there is quite a bit of evidence showing that general consumption over time is protective against neurodegenerative disease and decline in cognitive function.”

Flavanols have also been linked to lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, skin health, reduced risk of some cancers, and improved blood pressure and circulation. The findings of the study were presented as part of a symposium highlighting the potential of plant-based treatments presented today, April 3, 2009, at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference 2009 in Brighton and the information was posted on the University of Northumbria’s website on April 3, 2009.