New research suggests that drinking cocoa could increase your mental agility.
A team at the University of Birmingham has found that people given cocoa with high levels of flavanols, a group of molecules that occur naturally in fruit and vegetables, were able to complete certain cognitive tasks more efficiently than when drinking a non-flavanol enriched-drink.
According to the University of Birmingham, participants in the study also underwent non-invasive brain imaging to measure blood oxygenation levels in the brain.
While working with experts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the researchers found that the participants who consumed the flavanol-rich drink produced a faster and greater increase in blood oxygenation levels in response to artificially-elevated levels of CO2, the University of Birmingham said.
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According to the University of Birmingham, flavanols are a sub-group of plant flavonoids, and they are found in cocoa, grapes, apples, tea, berries and other foods. Though they are known to have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health, their effects on brain health are not well understood.
This study is the first time the cognitive effect of flavanols in young, healthy subjects and the link to brain blood oxygenation has been investigated, the University of Birmingham said.
The University of Birmingham said during the cognitive tests, the researchers found significant differences in the speed and accuracy with which volunteers completed the higher complexity tasks.
Volunteers who had taken the flavanol-enriched drink performing the tasks 11% faster on average, the University of Birmingham said.
According to the University of Birmingham, the researchers noted an additional outcome. A small group of the participants did not benefit at all from the flavanol-enriched drink in terms of blood oxygenation levels or cognitive performance.
Researchers said this group already had high levels of brain oxygenation responses in the beginning, and they were not increased further by drinking the enriched cocoa.