The next time you sit down to pay bills or solve a complex problem, you may first want to take a bite of my favorite “dark indulgence.”
For one, it’s packed with natural, brain-boosting compounds called flavanols.
Plus, new research shows it may even help you work the through your mental task faster…and with greater accuracy!
Let me explain…
The brain needs more oxygen when taxed
The “dark indulgence” I’m talking about today is dark chocolate.
We already know that the flavanols in this treat have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to benefit your heart and circulation.
But this new study involved the effect of flavanols on brain function, specifically. And it had a classic, “before-and-after,” crossover format.
To start, 18 healthy, young adults drank cocoa with low levels of flavanols (as a placebo).
Then, they underwent a “mild vascular challenge” where they breathed in air with 5 percent carbon dioxide. (That’s about 100 times the normal concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And the body typically reacts by increasing oxygen to the brain.)
Last, the participants were asked to perform a series of complex mental tasks. Then, the researchers recorded how quickly and accurately they performed the tasks.
(Complex mental tasks typically require the brain to work harder and use more oxygen. So, with the additional carbon dioxide in the air, the participants’ brains were doubly taxed in this phase of the experiment.)
In the crossover phase of the study, the participants drank flavanol-rich cocoa (as a control). Then, they completed the very same “mild vascular challenge” and mental tasks, with the researchers recording the results.
In addition, after the vascular challenges during both phases, the researchers measured the participants’ blood oxygen levels using near-infrared spectroscopy. (This non-invasive method uses light to see oxygen in blood.)
Here’s what they found…
Flavanol-rich cocoa IMPROVED brain function and cognitive performance
It turns out, the participants had the highest blood oxygen levels after drinking the flavanol-rich cocoa. In fact, some participants had oxygen levels three times higher than when they consumed regular cocoa (not enriched with flavanols).
So, clearly, the flavanol-rich beverage had an almost immediate, positive effect of sending more of the much-needed oxygen to the working brain.
But that’s not all…
The participants also performed much better on the complex mental tasks after drinking the flavanol-rich cocoa—with significant improvements in speed and accuracy. In fact, they completed the tasks, on average, 11 percent faster than when they drank the regular cocoa.
Researchers credited the improved cognitive performance on the higher blood oxygen levels. And here’s why…
As I mentioned, the brain must work harder and use more oxygen when engaged in more complex mental tasks. So, by improving oxygen levels, the flavanol-rich drink improved brain function, too.
In other words, go ahead and enjoy that smooth, delicious square of dark chocolate after dinner…or whenever your brain needs a quick boost! Just make sure you skip the milk chocolate (with added sugar) and choose a brand of pure chocolate that contains at least 85 percent cacao.
Of course, many other healthy foods, in addition to dark chocolate, contain these powerful flavanols…including red wine, coffee, and blueberries.
In fact, other studies with blueberries, for example, found immediate improvements in memory, as well as long-term benefits. (I report more on some brain-boosting benefits of berries in the upcoming August edition of my monthly Insiders’ Cures newsletter. So if you’re not already a subscriber, click here to become one. You won’t want to miss it!)
Finally, to learn about the many other safe and effective approaches to boosting your brain function as you get older, check out my comprehensive, online learning tool, my Complete Alzheimer’s Prevention and Repair Protocol. To learn more, or enroll today, simply click here.
Always on the side of science,
Marc S. Micozzi, M.D., Ph.D.
“Dietary flavanols improve cerebral cortical oxygenation and cognition in healthy adults.” Sci Rep 2020; 10:19409. doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-76160-9