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Cocoa Compounds May Improve Eye & Brain Function

Posted May 24 2011 10:20pm
Posted on 2011-05-24 06:00:00 in Brain and Mental Performance | Functional Foods | Sensory |
Cocoa Compounds May Improve Eye & Brain Function

Previous studies have suggested a variety of health benefits associated with cocoa, as the food contains high concentrations of flavanols, a type of antioxidant.  David T. Field, from the University of Reading (United Kingdom), and colleagues report that the consumption of cocoa flavanols may improve aspects of eye and brain function. The researchers recruited 30 healthy adults, ages 18 to 25 years, each of whom was instructed to consume dark chocolate and a matched quantity of white chocolate, with a one week interval between testing sessions. Each participant was tested in a high cocoa flavanols condition (35 g of a commercially available dark chocolate) and a low cocoa flavanols condition; in the control condition, participants consumed 35 g of white chocolate.  Cognitive and visual testing began mid-morning and lasted approximately 45 minutes.  Visual contrast sensitivity was assessed by reading numbers that became progressively more similar in luminance to their background, said the researchers.  Motion sensitivity was assessed firstly by measuring the threshold proportion of coherently moving signal dots that could be detected against a background of random motion, and also by determining the minimum time required to detect motion direction in a display containing a high proportion of coherent motion.  Cognitive performance was assessed using a visual spatial working memory for location task and a choice reaction time task designed to engage processes of sustained attention and inhibition.  The team found that cocoa flavanols improved visual contrast sensitivity and reduced the time required to detect motion direction, as compared to the control condition. Reporting that: “Acute cocoa supplementation enhances the visual performance of young adults.  Cocoa improved reading of low contrast letters, and detection of motion,” the researchers submit that: “We propose that increased blood flow to the retina and brain explains this.”

David T. Field, Claire M. Williams, Laurie T. Butler.  “Consumption of cocoa flavanols results in an acute improvement in visual and cognitive functions.” Physiology & Behavior, Volume 103, Issues 3-4, Pages 255-260, 1 June 2011.

Containing high concentrations of flavanols, a type of antioxidant, cocoa may help to boost performance on vision tests, as well as some aspects of cognition.
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