New research conducted by a multinational team of researchers suggests that consuming flavanols, a type of dietary flavonoid, may enhance cognitive abilities in certain older adults.
Flavanol Consumption And Cognitive Aging: Flavonoids are naturally occurring compounds found in various foods such as cocoa, tea, and grapes. Previous studies have indicated a possible link between flavanol consumption and cognitive aging, which could be influenced by the quality of one's diet.
Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on May 30, the study involved over 3,500 participants who were divided into two groups. One group received a flavanol dietary supplement, while the other received a placebo.
Research Details: The researchers used tools like the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (aHEI) scores and the Modified Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (ModRey) to assess baseline health and memory scores. The participants were followed for a period of three years.
The study revealed that individuals with poor diets (with aHEI scores below 38) experienced sustained increases in baseline memory levels after taking the flavanol pill, compared to those who received the placebo. The flavanol pill contained approximately 500 milligrams of cocoa-based flavanols.
The Potential: The researchers emphasized that their focus was on "cognitive aging" rather than conditions like Alzheimer's. They suggested that a depletion of flavanol levels in a segment of relatively healthy older adults could be associated with changes in a specific memory system that occurs with normal aging.
While this research provides insights into the potential benefits of flavanol supplements for memory enhancement in certain older adults, some experts caution against drawing definitive conclusions. Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, warns that people should not rush to increase their flavanol intake based solely on this study's findings.
Caution: He advises individuals to focus on established measures that protect against various illnesses, such as maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and getting sufficient sleep.
Nevertheless, the study's results offer valuable information on the impact of diet on cognitive performance. Registered dietitian nutritionist Kelsey Costa emphasizes the importance of incorporating dietary flavanols into a preventive nutrition strategy that promotes healthy aging. While the study used cocoa-based flavanol supplements, nutrition experts suggest that individuals can also increase their flavanol intake by consuming foods such as tea, berries, grapes, broccoli, kale, and tomatoes.
Conclusion: Overall, this research contributes to our understanding of the potential cognitive benefits associated with flavanol consumption in certain older adults. However, it is essential to interpret the findings cautiously and consider a well-rounded approach to maintaining cognitive health, including a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.