Posted on Feb 14, 2017, 6 a.m.
Flavanols may help people to maintain memory capacity as they age.
As a common consequence of aging, cognitive functions – memory capacity, processing speed, and the ability to form long-term memories – may deteriorate. Daniela Mastroiacovo, from the SS Filippo e Nicola Hospital (Italy), and colleagues enrolled 90 men and women, ages 61 to 85 years, with no evidence of cognitive dysfunction, in a study in which each subject was assigned to one of three flavanol groups: consuming a drink containing either high (993 mg), intermediate (520 mg) or low (48 mg) amounts of cocoa flavanols every day, for eight weeks. Normal diets and regular lifestyle were maintained throughout the study. At the start of the study and again after eight weeks, cognitive function was assessed using a battery of tests that examined memory, retention, recall, as well as executive function. Among those individuals who regularly consumed either the high- or intermediate-flavanol drinks, the researchers observed significant improvements in overall cognitive function after only eight weeks. In addition to evaluating cognitive function, the team also assessed insulin resistance, blood pressure and other metabolic markers – all of which showed improvements: in the high- and intermediate-flavanol groups, both systolic and diastolic blood pressures were reduced and insulin resistance was significantly improved. In contrast, only a modest improvement in diastolic blood pressure was observed in the low-flavanol group, with no significant improvements in either systolic blood pressure or insulin resistance among the consumers of the low-flavanol drink. The study authors write that: “This dietary intervention study provides evidence that regular [cocoa flavanol] consumption can reduce some measures of age-related cognitive dysfunction, possibly through an improvement in insulin sensitivity. These data suggest that the habitual intake of flavanols can support healthy cognitive function with age.”
Daniela Mastroiacovo, Catherine Kwik-Uribe, Davide Grassi, Stefano Necozione, Angelo Raffaele, et al. “Cocoa flavanol consumption improves cognitive function, blood pressure control, and metabolic profile in elderly subjects: the Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Study—a randomized controlled trial.” Am J Clin Nutr; February 2015.