Can cocoa flavanols boost memory? New research says “yes”!
A natural compound found in cocoa (as well as blueberries, tea and wine) may help to enhance your memory, according to newly published research.
“This finding […] identifies a single natural chemical with memory-enhancing effects, suggesting that it may be possible to optimize brain function by combining exercise and dietary supplementation,” says Mark Mattson, PhD, at the National Institute on Aging.
Cocoa Flavanols: The Brain Boosting Secret in Chocolate
The compound, epicatechin, is from a group of compounds known as flavanols. It has been shown previously to improve cardiovascular function and increase blood flow in the brain.
The findings, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, suggest that a diet rich in flavanols may help reduce the incidence and severity of neurodegenerative disease and cognitive disorders related to aging.
In the study, researchers compared mice fed a typical diet with those fed a diet supplemented with epicatechin. The mice with the supplemental diet had greater blood vessel growth in the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning and developed more mature nerve cells. This suggests an enhanced ability of these cells to communicate.
After further analysis, the researchers found that epicatechin had a beneficial effect on the expression of genes important for learning and memory, and decreased the activity of genes playing a role in inflammation and neurodegeneration.
Organic cocoa is one of the world’s richest sources of flavanols. In fact, naturally processed cocoa is so rich in these compounds that it has an antioxidant value 12 times higher than blueberries!
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- Journal of Neuroscience (Society for Neuroscience), May 30 2007, Volume 27, Issue 22. “Plant-Derived Flavanol Epicatechin Enhances Angiogenesis and Retention of Spatial Memory in Mice” Authors: H van Praag, MJ Lucero, GW Yeo, K Stecker, N Heivand, C Zhao, E Yip, M Afanador, H Schroeter, J Hammerstone, and FH Gage.