Posted on Mar 23, 2012, 6 a.m.
Consumption of chocolate rich in flavanol may help to promote brain performance, by boosting the efficiency of specific aspects of memory.
Flavanol is a potent type of antioxidant, a compound that is associated with the capacity to scavenge free radicals and consequently modulate oxidative stress. David Camfield, from Swinburne University (Australia), and colleagues engaged 63 subjects, ages 40 to 65 years, to drink a daily chocolate beverage over a 30-day study period. All participants received the chocolate drink, but in differing cocoa flavanol concentrations: the first group consumed 10 g of dark high-flavanol chocolate (corresponding to 500 mg cocoa flavanols), the second group received 10 g of conventional dark chocolate (250 mg of cocoa flavanols), and the third group received 10 g of dark chocolate (containing only a few cocoa flavanols). The researchers asked the subjects to perform spatial working memory tasks, during which concurrent computer tomography brain scans were conducted. Whereas no differences were found between the groups regarding the accuracy or reaction times in performing the memory tasks, the team did observed via the brain scans that subjects who consumed the chocolate beverage containing either the medium or high proportion of cocoa flavanols were less strained by performing the tasks, as compared to those in the control group. Positive that these findings suggest that higher flavanol chocolate lowers stress levels in the brain, thereby allowing those subjects to achieve the same performance with lower resource usage, the study authors submit that their data provides " evidence of increased neural efficiency in spatial working memory function associated with chronic cocoa flavanol consumption.”
D.A. Camfield, A. Scholey, A. Pipingas, R. Silberstein, M. Kras, K. Nolidin, et al. “Steady state visually evoked potential (SSVEP) topography changes associated with cocoa flavanol consumption.” Physiology & Behavior, Volume 105, Issue 4, 28 February 2012, Pages 948-957.