Flavanol rich chocolate could boost brain performance, say researchers

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Potential spatial working memory improvement method: Chocolate consumption
Potential spatial working memory improvement method: Chocolate consumption

Related tags Brain

Regular consumption of high-flavanol chocolate, could help to promote brain performance by boosting the efficiency of certain brain functions, suggests new research supported by Barry Callebaut.

The study – funded by Barry Callebaut and published inPhysiology and Behavior– investigated the effects of flavonol-rich on the functioning of spatial working memory. The research team, from Swinburne University, Australia, reported that 30 days supplementation with a high-flavanol chocolate drink did not affect behavioural measures of accuracy and reaction time; however, a number of brain areas were found to be significantly improved in terms of memory encoding, working memory hold period, and retrieval.

“In the absence of significant behavioural effects, these differences in brain activation can be interpreted as evidence of increased neural efficiency in spatial working memory function associated with chronic cocoa flavanol consumption,”​ said the research team, led by David Camfield of Swinburne.

"This is the first time that science has positively linked consumption of high flavanol cocoa and chocolate products from Barry Callebaut to improved brain performance,”​ said Hans Vriens, chief innovation officer at Barry Callebaut.

“When consumed regularly, the brain is able to complete memory tasks with less effort,"​ he added.

Study details

Sixty-three volunteers aged between 40 and 65 given a daily chocolate drink over the 30 period of the randomised, controlled, double-blind trial.

Participants were divided up into three test groups, with each group consuming a chocolate drink containing a different amount cocoa flavanols – the first group received a drink containing 10 grams of dark high-flavanol chocolate (corresponding to 500 mg cocoa flavanols), the second group received a drink which contained 10 grams of conventional dark chocolate (250 mg of cocoa flavanols), whilst the third group received 10 grams of dark chocolate that contained only a few cocoa flavanols.

Camfield and his team used tasks that assess spatial working memory to measure human brain activity. In addition, and in order to compare brain activities, on the first and on the 30th day computer-tomography (CT) brain scans of the test subjects were made while participants solved the special memory tasks.

Camfield and his colleagues found no differences between the various groups in the accuracy or the reaction times of the test subjects in solving the task.

However they said the results of the CT scan revealed that the brains of individuals who consumed the cocoa drink with a medium or a high proportion of cocoa flavanols were less strained by the tasks the than those in the control group without cocoa flavanols.

This could mean that the higher flavanol chocolate lowered stress levels in the brain after consumption and allowed the test subjects to achieve the same performance with lower resource usage, suggested the authors.

Source: Physiology & Behavior
Volume 105, Issue 4​, Pages 948–957, doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2011.11.013​,
“Steady state visually evoked potential (SSVEP) topography changes associated with cocoa flavanol consumption”
Authors: D.A. Camfield, A. Scholey, A. Pipingas, R. Silberstein, M. Kras, K. Nolidin, K. Wesnes, M. Pase, C. Stough

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Study Should Have Cited Percentage of Cacao

Posted by Tom Laga,

For years now, we've been cautioning people and our patients especially to eat only DARK chocolate with AT LEAST 60% cacao. The article would have been more meaningful to more people if the researchers and writer knew what we holistic clinicians/lecturers have been advocating for years in order to be speaking the same language.

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Cocoa Flavonoids

Posted by Diana McCalla,

Commercial processing destroys most of the fragile flavonids. I have found a dark chocolate that uses cold-press technology. As a result, you can get 1,740 flavonoids for as little as 100 calories, it also is diabetic friendly and vegan and has no caffeine, waxes, preservatives nor fillers. And it tastes so good you think you are doing something wrong.

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