Cocoa flavanols may increase blood flow to the brain, according to new research published in the Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment journal. The researchers suggest that long-term improvements in brain blood flow could impact cognitive behavior, offering future potential for debilitating brain conditions including dementia and stroke.
In a Mars, Inc. study of healthy, older adults ages 59 to 83, Harvard medical scientists found that study participants who regularly drank a cocoa flavanol-rich beverage made using the Mars Cocoapro process had an eight percent increase in brain blood flow after one week, and 10 percent increase after two weeks.
The researchers found both short and long-term benefits of cocoa flavanols for brain blood flow, offering future potential for the one in seven older Americans currently living with dementia. When the flow of blood to the brain slows over time, the result may be structural damage and dementia. Scientists speculate that maintaining an increased blood flow to the brain could slow this cognitive decline.
"The totality of the research on cocoa flavanols is impressive. This is just one more study adding to an increasing body of literature connecting regular cocoa flavanol consumption to blood flow and vascular health improvements throughout the body," said Harold Schmitz, Ph.D., chief science officer at Mars, Incorporated, which has supported research on cocoa flavanols for more than 15 years. "Though more research is needed, these findings raise the possibility that flavanol-rich cocoa products could be developed to help slow brain decline in older age."
The researchers say the vascular effects of cocoa flavanols are independent of general "antioxidant" effects that cocoa flavanols exhibit in a test tube, outside of the body, contrary to some media stories.
Mars, Inc. has conducted and/or supported a significant portion of the research undertaken in the field of cocoa flavanols, evidenced by more than 100 peer-reviewed research publications and more than 80 patents held by the company. Mars also developed and patented the Cocoapro process used in this study.
Mars, Inc. has created a new division, Mars Botanical, to further investigate the biomedical potential of cocoa flavanols.
Article: Sorond FA, Lipsitz LA, Hollenberg NK, Fisher NDL. Cerebral blood flow response to flavanol-rich cocoa in healthy elderly humans. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. 2008;4:433-440.