A compound discovered in cocoa beans might have a protective effect against dementia, particularly for older adults.
In the US, a research team has found that individuals over 65 who consumed daily cocoa extract supplements showed improved performance in cognitive tests, particularly among those initially having a lower-quality diet, The Times reported.
Studies have suggested that cocoa extract potentially safeguards cognitive function, yet various randomised clinical trials with elderly participants have yielded inconsistent outcomes.
Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston conducted a study involving 573 individuals aged 65 and above. These participants were given daily supplements containing 500mg of cocoa flavanols or a placebo lacking cocoa.
Throughout a two-year period, participants underwent thorough cognitive assessments in person.
The findings revealed no significant overall advantages for those receiving cocoa compared to the placebo group.
However, individuals with initially lower diet quality showed some improvement in cognitive performance after the study period.
While this research did not directly explore dementia development in participants, even minor declines in cognitive abilities have been associated with an increased risk of developing the disease in the future.
Researchers are actively seeking interventions that can address early signs of age-related decline, focusing on implementing these interventions where they are most likely to yield positive effects.
Published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, this study is a segment of the Cosmos trial, a comprehensive, extensive trial encompassing over 21,000 older individuals nationwide in the US.
Supported by Mars, the confectionery company, the Cosmos trial aims to evaluate whether daily supplements of cocoa extract or a standard multivitamin could potentially lower the risk of developing critical health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer, among other health outcomes.
Previous findings from the study revealed that individuals who received a cocoa supplement showed a reduced risk of heart-related fatalities, though this did not correlate with lower chances of experiencing heart attacks or strokes.
Dr JoAnn Manson, a researcher associated with the study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, noted that these outcomes offered “promising signals for heart protection.”
Discussing these findings, she highlighted that to match the cocoa flavanols in the supplements, one would need to consume approximately 600 calories of dark chocolate.
The concentration of cocoa flavanols in products available in British stores can vary, but generally, dark, or plain chocolate tends to contain higher levels of these compounds.