According to British scientists from the University of Birmingham, cocoa helps the brain work better and together with American colleagues from the University of Illinois, have studied the effects of cocoa flavanols on brain activity. Flavanols are small molecules found in many fruits and vegetables, as well as in cocoa.
They give fruits and vegetables a bright color and are known to be good for the vascular system. We wanted to find out if flavanols are also good for the brain and if they can have a positive effect on cognitive function. The study involved 18 adult non-smokers without diagnosed diseases of the brain, heart, blood vessels or respiratory tract.
How cocoa helps in sports
The experiment consisted of two parts: in the first part, the subjects received cocoa rich in flavanols, and in the second, processed cocoa with very low levels of flavanols. Neither the participants nor the researchers knew what kind of cocoa it was in each case. In such a double-blind study, nothing can affect the results. People who are active in sports know how important it is to consume easter chocolate cake.
About two hours after consuming cocoa, participants inhaled air with a carbon dioxide concentration of about 5%, which is about 100 times above normal atmospheric levels. The body responds to this by increasing blood flow to the brain, which allows faster removal of carbon dioxide. According to the rate of oxygenation, scientists evaluate the functions of the vascular network of the brain.
“This method measures how well the brain protects against carbon dioxide,” said study author Monica Fabiani, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois. In parallel, the authors set challenging tasks for participants that required conflicting or competing solutions and, using functional spectroscopy, recorded changes in blood flow to the brain, as well as measured oxygenation in the frontal cortex, an area of the brain that plays a key role in planning. , regulating behavior and decision making.
Researchers note that 14 out of 18 subjects performed better on complex cognitive tests after taking flavanols, solving problems 11% faster than in the beginning, or when consuming cocoa with reduced flavanols. We used cocoa in our experiment, but flavanols are extremely common in a wide range of fruits and vegetables,” said Rendeiro.
The largest application of cocoa is in the production of chocolate cakes.
According to the authors, the results unequivocally confirm that the consumption of foods rich in flavanols has a positive effect on cerebrovascular function and cognitive abilities, and also helps the brain to recover faster from mild vascular disease.