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Dark Chocolate Improves Brain Function

Aug 14, 2012 11:48 AM EDT

A team at the University of Nottingham has discovered that eating chocolate could help to sharpen up the mind and give a short-term boost to cognitive skills.

The study that was led by Professor Ian Macdonald claims that consumption of a cocoa drink that is rich in flavanols, a key ingredient of dark chocolate, boosts blood flow to key areas of the brain for two to three hours, which directly leads to increase performance in task and boost general alertness over a short period.

The study that was presented at the scientific conference in America, raises prospect prospect of ingredients in chocolate being used to treat vascular impairment, including dementia and strokes, and thus for maintaining cardiovascular health.

Apart from this there are many added benefits of cocoa flavanols such as enhancing brain function for people fighting fatigue, sleep deprivation, and even the effects of ageing.

Flavanols are not only found in chocolate with a high cocoa content  they are also present in other substances such as red wine, green tea and blueberries.

In order to detect the increased activity in specific areas of the brain in individuals who consumed a single drink of flavanol-rich cocoa, Macdonald used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The effect is linked to dilation of cerebral blood vessels, allowing more blood and therefore more oxygen to reach key areas of the brain.

Macdonald said: "Acute consumption of this particular flavanol-rich cocoa beverage was associated with increased grey matter flow for two to three hours. The demonstration of an effect of consuming this particular beverage on cerebral blood flow raises the possibility that certain food ingredients may be beneficial in increasing brain blood flow and enhancing brain function, in situations where individuals are cognitively impaired such as fatigue, sleep deprivation, or possibly ageing."

The researchers emphasized that the level of cocoa flavanol used in the study is not available commercially. The cocoa-rich flavanol beverage was specially formulated for the purpose of the study.

While the study found an association between cocoa flavanols and mental function scores, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

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