Study suggests flavanols in cocoa drink could improve cognitive function

Published 14 August 2012

A cocoa-based milk drink could improve cognitive function in older people, according to a study published in the journal Hypertension today (Tuesday 14 August 2012).

The drink contained flavanols, which have been shown previously to protect nerve cells.

In a small study carried out by the University of L'Aquila in Italy, 90 elderly participants with mild cognitive impairment were given a cocoa drink containing either high, intermediate or low levels of flavanols. After consuming the drinks over an eight week period, researchers found improvements in motor responses, working memory, task-switching and verbal memory for those given the drinks with a higher flavanol content. Greater levels of flavanols also led to higher overall cognitive scores than those participants drinking lower-levels.

The study was funded by the Mars confectionery company.

Alzheimer's Society comment:

'This small preliminary study suggests that a drink containing flavanols may improve some aspects of cognitive function in older people. However, larger, longer-term studies are needed before we can draw any firm conclusions on whether foods like this have any significant benefits.

'From what we know at the moment, the best ways to protect our hearts and brains are to eat a healthy diet, take regular exercise and not smoke.'

Professor Clive Ballard
Director of Research
Alzheimer's Society

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