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Cocoa Flavanols May Improve Cognitive Function in Elderly

Benefit seen in elderly with mild cognitive impairment; partly mediated by insulin sensitivity

TUESDAY, Aug. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Regular consumption of cocoa flavanols may be associated with improved cognitive functioning in elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment, according to a study published online Aug. 13 in Hypertension.

Giovambattista Desideri, M.D., from the University of L'Aquila in Italy, and colleagues randomized 90 elderly individuals with mild cognitive impairment to consume once daily for eight weeks a drink with high, intermediate, or low cocoa flavanols. The Mini Mental State Examination, Trail Making Test A and B, and verbal fluency tests were used to assess cognitive function.

The researchers found that, at the end of the follow-up period, the Mini Mental State Examination results were similar for all three treatment groups (P = 0.13). For individuals consuming high and intermediate flavanols, the time required to complete Trail Making Test A and Trail Making Test B was significantly lower than for those assigned to low flavanols (P < 0.05). The verbal fluency test score was also significantly better in individuals assigned to high flavanols compared to those assigned to low flavanols (P < 0.05). Individuals in the high- and intermediate-flavanol groups also experienced decreased insulin resistance, blood pressure, and lipid peroxidation. Insulin resistance accounted for approximately 40 percent of the variability in the composite z score.

"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first dietary intervention study demonstrating that the regular consumption of cocoa flavanols might be effective in improving cognitive function in elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment," the authors write. "This effect appears mediated in part by an improvement in insulin sensitivity."

One author disclosed financial ties to Mars Inc., which supplied the cocoa drinks for the study.

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