Cocoa and chocolate enhance cognition and mental performance

Cocoa flavanols, a class of natural compounds in cocoa bean, have neuroprotective effects, based on a meta study carried out by a group of Italian researchers.  In a review article published in Frontiers in Nutrition, the Italian researchers examined the available literature for the effects of administration of cocoa flavanols on different cognitive domains. In other words: what happens to your brain up to a few hours after you eat cocoa flavanols, and what happens when you sustain such a cocoa flavanol enriched diet for a prolonged period of time?

For the short-term acute effect of cocoa flavanols intake, the researchers reported a beneficial effect of cocoa flavanols on cognitive performance based on the analysis of several randomized controlled trials.  Participants showed, among others, enhancements in working memory performance and improved visual information processing after having had cocoa flavanols. And for women, eating cocoa after a night of total sleep deprivation actually counteracted the cognitive impairment (i.e. less accuracy in performing tasks) that such a night brings about, promising results for people that suffer from chronic sleep deprivation or work shifts.

The effects of relatively long-term ingestion of cocoa flavanols (ranging from 5 days up to 3 months) have been investigated in elderly individuals. It is observed that cognitive performance was improved by a daily intake of cocoa flavanols. Factors such as attention, processing speed, working memory, and verbal fluency were greatly affected.  Furthermore, the mental enhancement effects were most pronounced in older adults with a starting memory decline or other mild cognitive impairments.

These results suggest cocoa flavanols can be used to protect brain by improving cognitive performance, especially in vulnerable populations.  The cocoa flavanols have beneficial effects for cardiovascular health and can increase cerebral blood volume in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, which may be the reason for the mental enhancement effect. 

The researchers concluded that regular intake of cocoa and chocolate could indeed provide beneficial effects on cognitive functioning over time.  Specifically, the scientists point to dark chocolate as a rich source of flavanols.  To get your daily fix of cocoa flavanols with a dose of energizing caffeine, check out SGC’s mocca shots dark chocolate high energy gummy.

Thanks for reading.

Journal Reference:

1. Valentina Socci, Daniela Tempesta, Giovambattista Desideri, Luigi De Gennaro, Michele Ferrara. Enhancing Human Cognition with Cocoa Flavonoids. Frontiers in Nutrition, 2017; 4 DOI: 10.3389/fnut.2017.00019

2. Frontiers. “Cocoa and chocolate are not just treats — they are good for your cognition: Cocoa can be seen as a dietary supplement to protect human cognition and can counteract different types of cognitive decline..” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 June 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170629101648.htm>.