The Benefits of Cocoa

by Rachel Boutagy

Growing older is a daunting thought to virtually everyone. But since
aging is inevitable, doing so with our full cognitive facilities would
be the top priority for most.

The benefits of regular exercise (both aerobic and strength training),
a diverse, Mediterranean diet and challenges for the brain (such as
sudoku, crosswords and language learning) are well accepted for
improved cognition as we age. Recent and exciting research has also
looked into the effect of food compounds on mental function in aging
as well, with a very promising candidate: cocoa!

Dr. Valentina Socci and her team in Italy recently published a review
of all available literature examining the effects of cocoa and healthy
cognition. She writes

"Enhancing cognitive abilities has become a fascinating scientific
challenge, recently driven by the interest in preventing age-related
cognitive decline and sustaining normal cognitive performance in
response to cognitively demanding environments. In recent years, cocoa
and cocoa-derived products, as a rich source of flavonoids, mainly the
flavanols sub-class, have been clearly shown to exert cardiovascular
benefits. More recently, neuromodulation and neuroprotective actions
have been also suggested. [In this review] we discuss human studies
specifically aimed at investigating the effects of acute and chronic
administration of cocoa flavanols on different cognitive domains, such
as executive functions, attention and memory. Through a variety of
direct and indirect biological actions, in part still speculative,
cocoa and cocoa-derived food have been suggested to possess the
potential to counteract cognitive decline and sustain cognitive
abilities, particularly among patients at risk. Although still at a
preliminary stage, research investigating the relations between cocoa
and cognition shows dose-dependent improvements in general cognition,
attention, processing speed, and working memory. Moreover, cocoa
flavanols administration could also enhance normal cognitive
functioning and exert a protective role on cognitive performance and
cardiovascular function specifically impaired by sleep loss, in
healthy subjects. Together, these findings converge at pointing to
cocoa as a new interesting nutraceutical tool to protect human
cognition and counteract different types of cognitive decline, thus
encouraging further investigations."

Dr. Socci and colleagues also identified that cocoa consumption
enhanced working memory performance and improved visual information
processing. And for women, eating cocoa after a night of total sleep
deprivation actually counteracted the cognitive impairment (i.e. less
accuracy in performing tasks) that such a night brings about. These
are promising findings for people that suffer from chronic sleep
deprivation or shift workers.

The review has identified that cognitive performance is improved by a
daily intake of cocoa flavanols. Factors such as attention, processing
speed, working memory, and verbal fluency can be greatly improved and
these effects are most pronounced in older adults who are starting to
experience a decline in memory or other mild cognitive impairments.

The authors, Drs. Socci and Ferrara from the University of L'Aquila in
Italy have stated that this was the most promising finding from their
review: "This result suggests the potential of cocoa flavanols to
protect cognition in vulnerable populations over time by improving
cognitive performance. If you look at the underlying mechanism, the
cocoa flavanols have beneficial effects for cardiovascular health and
can increase cerebral blood volume in the dentate gyrus of the
hippocampus. This structure is particularly affected by aging and
therefore the potential source of age-related memory decline in

ANPC's WPC with organic artisan cocoa, uses only the finest quality single origin cacao beans which have been ethically sourced and then roasted in small batches using vintage, artisan equipment and traditional methods. This allows time for the bean's inherent flavour to emerge. The result is a truly unique cocoa powder which requires no other flavourings or enhancers to achieve such an incredible taste. 


Frontiers. "Cocoa and chocolate are not just treats -- they are good
for your cognition: Cocoa can be seen as a dietary supplement to
protect human cognition and can counteract different types of
cognitive decline.." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 June 2017.