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Scientists reveal a real benefit of cocoa: it helps the brain to solve complex tasks

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In addition, the drink helps improve brain oxygenation. The test was performed using cocoa bean drink rich in flavanols.

Previous studies have shown that eating plant polyphenols found in a variety of foods – green tea, grapes, apples, citrus fruits, dark chocolate, sea buckthorn, and others – can improve vascular function. 

These substances are called flavonols. But the work of scientists from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom and the University of Illinois in the United States showed for the first time that the flavonols contained in cocoa can have a positive effect on the blood vessels of the brain, as well as on cognitive abilities in healthy young people.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, notes that cocoa flavanols are also useful for speeding up recovery from mild vascular disease.

The double-blind experiment involved 18 male volunteers between the ages of 18 to 45. In the first part, they received cocoa rich in flavanols, and in the second, cocoa with a low content of flavanols.

Using the near-infrared functional spectroscopy technique, the scientists measured the oxygen saturation in the blood in the frontal cortex, which plays a critical role in planning, behavior, and decision-making. 

It turned out that the consumption of flavanols increases oxygenation three times and accelerates it in one minute. Therefore, participants who consumed flavanol-rich cocoa solved complex cognitive tasks 11% faster.

Flavanols can aid cognition only when there is substantial demand for information processing at the neural level, which in turn requires adequate levels of oxygenation of the blood, the scientists explained.

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