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Chocolate 'could keep brain healthy'

20th February 2007

A special type of cocoa could help keep the mind sharp and delay the onset of cognitive decline, according to a new study.

The beneficial compounds, called flavanols, are found in certain types of cocoa and could maintain mental ability and help find solutions for dementia, scientists revealed at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Ian Macdonald, from the University of Nottingham, led the study, which used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine how people's brain levels varied after consuming flavanol-rich cocoa.

"Acute consumption of this particular flavanol-rich cocoa beverage was associated with increased grey matter flow for two to three hours," he said.

"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 research was funded by confectionary company Mars Incorporated, which has been part of research on cocoa flavanols for more than 15 years.