Cacao has a long history of ritual and culinary uses. While its stimulant, antioxidant1, and antitussive properties have been widely celebrated in a variety of ways, a study has been recently conducted in order to analyze the effect of cacao supplements on cognitive function in older adults.
Professor Scott Small and his colleagues at Columbia University recently evaluated the effects of dietary cocoa supplements on cognitive function. 41 adults between the ages of 50 and 69 participated in a randomized double-blind trial and consumed a diet of either a high or low content of cacao flavanols. The participants underwent fMRI scans and cognitive test tasks before and after the trial. The results allowed researchers to further study the function of the dentate gyrus, a cerebral region located in the hippocampus that is believed to play an important role in the formation of memories, among other neurological activities.2
Researchers found that the participants who consumed the high-flavanol diet showed both improved dentate gyrus function and enhanced cognitive abilities. The researchers were then able to link dentate gyrus dysfunction with the decreased cognitive ability that comes with aging.
What Does This Mean?
The study concluded that simply adding rich sources of flavanols to one's daily diet may be an efficient way to improve memory and cognition, thus preventing age-related neurological decline. Cacao supplements are a powerhouse of flavanols, and they are widely available at health food stores and online.
- Nature, Enhancing dentate gyrus function with dietary flavanols improves cognition in older adults, 2014
- Antioxidants (Basel). (2020). Antioxidants in Cocoa. Retrieved September 11, 2023, from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7761840/
- Progress in Brain Research. (2007). The dentate gyrus: fundamental neuroanatomical organization (dentate gyrus for dummies). Retrieved September 11, 2023, from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0079612307630015