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Study claims antioxidants in cocoa can improve cognition

A diet high in cocoa bean flavanols could enhance cognitive function in middle aged people, according to a study published online in Nature Neuroscience today (Sunday 26 October).
Scott Small and colleagues at Columbia University, New York, examined whether the antioxidants found in cocoa, would enhance brain function and cognitive performance in 37 participants, aged 50-69. Before and after being given a high or a low dose of cocoa flavanols for three months, participants were tested on a cognitive task and given fMRI brain scans. The authors report that those who consumed a high dose of cocoa flavanols over three months were much faster on a delayed recognition memory task than those who received a low flavanol dose. Those in the high flavanol group also showed increased blood flow to the dentate gyrus, an area of the brain known to be affected as we age.
Dr Clare Walton, Research Manager at Alzheimer's Society, said:
'This well-designed but small study suggests the antioxidants found in cocoa can improve cognitive performance by improving blood flow to a certain region of the brain. The brain region is known to be affected in ageing, but as yet we don't know whether these brain changes are involved in dementia.
'With the winter nights setting in, many of us will be settling down with a nice hot cup of cocoa at the end of our day. However, the jury is still out as to whether partaking in things high in antioxidants can improve your memory or reduce your risk of dementia.'
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