A cup of hot cocoa could also help boost your brain power, a new study suggests.
A nutrient in cocoa, can improve blood oxygen levels in the brain and are linked to cognitive benefits, according to a study published this week.
Researchers from the University of Birmingham and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign looked at 18 healthy adult men who completed two increasingly difficult cognitive tests. The participants were tested after receiving either a cocoa drink high in flavanols, or a placebo drink of processed cocoa without flavanols.
The study found those who drank the flavanol-rich cocoa performed significantly better on the cognitive tests, completing them 11% faster compared to when they drank the placebo.
Cocoa could boost blood flow to improve mental performance
The researchers also tested the blood oxygen levels of participants and found the participants had better oxygen levels in their brains after consuming the flavanols. This suggests that flavanols could benefit cognitive ability by improving blood flow and increasing the amount of oxygen in the brain.
"Our results showed a clear benefit for the participants taking the flavanol-enriched drink - but only when the task became sufficiently complicated," Dr. Catarina Rendeiro, lead author of the study and nutrition lecturer at the University of Birmingham, said. "We can link this with our results on improved blood oxygenation - if you're being challenged more, your brain needs improved blood oxygen levels to manage that challenge.”
It's not just cocoa
"We used cocoa in our experiment, but flavanols are extremely common in a wide range of fruit and vegetable," Rendeiro said. "By better understanding the cognitive benefits of eating these food groups, as well as the wider cardiovascular benefits, we can offer improved guidance to people about how to make the most of their dietary choices."
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