Posted on Sep 13, 2012, 6 a.m.
Rich in flavanols, cocoa consumption lowers insulin resistance and blood pressure, while boosting cognitive functions.
A number of previous studies suggest that dietary intake of antioxidant compounds from plant-based foods, can exert cardiovascular benefits. Flavanols are a type of antioxidant that are found abundantly in cocoa products. Giovambattista Desideri, from the University of L’Aquila (Italy), and colleagues enrolled 90 older men and women affected by mild cognitive impairment (MCI), in a study in which each subject was randomized to drink varying levels of a dairy-based cocoa containing flavanols per day, for eight weeks: 990 mg, 520 mg, or 45 mg. The subjects who consumed either 520 or 990 mg of cocoa flavanols for two months demonstrated significant improvements on cognitive evaluations – specifically, verbal fluency and Trail making, as compared to those who drank 45 mg. As well, the team observed that systolic blood pressure was reduced by 10 mmHg, and diastolic by 8.2 mmHg, among those who consumed 520 mg of cocoa, as compared to 45 mg. Plasma glucose fell a mean of 0.6 mmol/L among the 990 mg group, and 0.5 mmol/L among the 520 mg group, with no differences for the 45 mg group. The study authors conclude that: "regular consumption of cocoa flavanols might be effective in improving cognitive function in elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment. This effect appears mediated in part by an improvement in insulin sensitivity.”
Giovambattista Desideri, Catherine Kwik-Uribe, Davide Grassi, Stefano Necozione, Lorenzo Ghiadoni, Daniela Mastroiacovo, et al. “Benefits in Cognitive Function, Blood Pressure, and Insulin Resistance Through Cocoa Flavanol Consumption in Elderly Subjects With Mild Cognitive Impairment: The Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Study.” Hypertension, August 14 2012.