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Studies reveal additional benefits from cocoa antioxidants

Cocoa polyphenols and flavanols show further potential


Two new studies on cocoa polyphenols and flavanols show that the antioxidants have promise in weight loss products, as well as in products aimed at improving eye and brain function.

Researchers at the University of Reading’s School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences in the U.K. found that vision tests on young adults revealed improved cognitive performance and vision function after the consumption of cocoa flavanols.

The study, published in the current issue of the journal Physiology & Behavior, involved 30 healthy adults aged between 18 and 25. Each consumed dark chocolate with 773 mg of cocoa flavanols, and white chocolate with only trace amounts of flavanols, for a week between testing sessions.

Improved vision

The randomized, single-blind tests showed that flavanol consumption improved visual contrast sensitivity, motion direction detection, and spatial memory and performance. The researchers deduced that increased cerebral blood flow caused by the cocoa flavanols might be the reason.

In a second study, this one conducted by scientists at the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition and the Pennsylvania State University, polyphenols from cocoa were found to inhibit certain enzymes associated with the digestion of fat and carbohydrates.

Published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, the study suggests that cocoa may be suitable for weight loss and management products. Cocoa that had undergone minimal processing and that was high in polyphenols and flavanols produced the greatest inhibitory effects.

In both cases researchers were planning additional studies.