Scientists from the University of Reading found that improvements in visual function were evident for two and a half hours after ingesting foods high in cocoa flavanols (CF) and certain cognitive brain functions were enhanced. Small amounts of unsweetened dark chocolate can aid visual acuity and boost memory performance.
Cacao Consumption from Dark Chocolate Improves Visual Acuity
The study involved 30 healthy adults aged 18 to 25 that were fed either 35 grams of dark chocolate or an equal amount of white chocolate at one week intervals. Visual acuity of the subjects was tested two hours after ingesting each form of the chocolate and set to determine the effect eating a high cocoa flavanol load (dark chocolate) compared with the low CF condition (white chocolate).
Visual sensitivity was tested by reading numbers that became progressively more similar to the background. Motion sensitivity was determined by detecting moving signal dots against a random motion background. Additionally, cognitive function was assessed by determining the reaction time required to engage processes of attention and inhibition.
The researchers found that participants ingesting the highest amount of cocoa flavanols improved visual contrast sensitivity, and reduced the amount of time needed to detect random motion. The study authors noted of their findings “A reduction in the time required to integrate visual motion could be beneficial in time critical everyday tasks, such as driving. The effect on the simpler early phase of the choice reaction time task suggests that CF can increase response speed in simple tasks.”
Cocoa Flavanols Improve Cognitive Function and Mental Fatigue
study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology examined the effect of cocoa flavanols on sustained levels of cognitive function and mental fatigue. 30 healthy adults consumed drinks containing 520 mg, 994 mg or a control placebo and were tested with a Cognitive Demand Battery to determine memory and ability to accomplish new tasks. Participants were also asked to self-rate themselves on a standard `mental fatigue` scale.
Scientists found that those subjects consuming the CF drinks experienced significant improvement in all cognitive ability tests performed. Mental fatigue was `significantly attenuated` by consumption of the drink containing 520 mg of CF. Natural flavanols have been shown to exert powerful effects on many aspects of health, and cocoa flavanols taken before periods of cognitive demand prove beneficial to memory, learning and fatigue reduction.