Cocoa is a low-fat constituent of finely ground cocoa beans. It is rich in minerals, antioxidants, flavonoids, methylxanthines which make it a health miracle. It is the raw material for making chocolate, cocoa powder and syrups.
Around 70% of world’s cocoa is cultivated in Africa. Cocoa has numerous health benefits as it has anti‒inflammatory, anti‒allergic, anti‒carcinogenic and antioxidant properties.
Aging is inevitable and with increasing age, here is a cognitive decline. Cognitive decline means slow speed of processing information by the brain and reduction in memory capacity.
Studies have suggested that flavonoids present in plant‒based foods such as cocoa, tea leaves are neuroprotective (protects brain damage).
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What happened in the study?
The aim of the study was to study the effect of cocoa (flavanol consumption) on brain aging in elderly. The study was conducted on 90 healthy elderly people who consumed a drink containing high, intermediate and low cocoa flavanols for 8 weeks on a daily basis .
Some memory tests were thereafter conducted and cognitive (related to the process of acquiring knowledge) function was measured.
What were the results of the study?
The present study suggested that regular intake of cocoa drinks stimulates brain function in elderly. There was a reversal in memory decline.
The participants showed improvement in memory capacity as well as glucose metabolism2. This shows a correlation between brain function enhancement as well as a reduction in insulin resistance.
Hence, cocoa intake not only solves the problem of memory loss but also other age‒related diseases.
How does this occur?
It has been reported that there is an increase in blood flow in the brain on regular intake of cocoa drinks2. Flavonols have a direct neuroprotective function as they enhance survival of neurons (brain cells) which promotes learning and memory.
Flavonoids have an antioxidant property which helps in preventing brain tissue damage, thereby, preventing brain dysfunction. They also inhibit certain biochemical processes that cause brain aging, hence, preventing degeneration of neurons.
They also enhance the function of dentate gyrus (a region of the brain which is the center of memory and emotion).Methylxanthines (caffeine and theobromine), the active ingredient of cocoa, penetrates the central nervous system and stimulates brain function.
What does this mean?
This study indicates that regular consumption of cocoa has many health benefits. In elderly, it prevents brain damage thereby enhancing brain function. Flavonoids present in cocoa make it ‘God of foods’ as studies have shown that flavanols improve brain function over time and promote long‒term memory.
Read the full study at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4340060/