London: Diets rich in cocoa flavanols - bioactives found naturally in cocoa - can help arrest age-related memory decline in healthy adults, a study shows.
"The results of this study are encouraging - they support the idea that diet, and specifically a diet rich in cocoa flavanols, can play an important role in maintaining cognitive health as we age," said lead author Giovambattista Desideri from the University of L'Aquila in Italy.
The study involved men and women aged 61-85 years.
They were 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.
Among those individuals who regularly consumed either the high- or intermediate-flavanol drinks, there were significant improvements in overall cognitive function after eight weeks.
As cognitive function was normal for this aged population, the study showed that even cognitively healthy individuals can quickly benefit from the regular inclusion of cocoa flavanols in their diets.
The researchers earlier found cognitive and cardio-metabolic benefits of habitual cocoa flavanol consumption in older adults who had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
The new research trial was carried out with a special cocoa flavanol test product, designed to deliver a standardised amount of flavanols within a nutritionally suitable drink.
This test product is currently not commercially available.
Flavanol content of commercially available chocolate is variable and, given its macronutrient profile, it is not recommended as a health food.
The study was published in the journal AJCN - The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.