Eating foods with flavanols can help boost memory

Eating foods with flavanols can help boost memory

  • Research findings shared by a multinational team have found that consuming flavanols can boost cognition in some older adults
  • Previous research has suggested a link between flavanol consumption and cognitive aging that may depend on the quality of the diet.
  • Flavnools are naturally occurring chemicals found in a variety of foods including grapes and tea.

New research, published May 30 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that consuming a flavanol chemical compound found in foods such as cocoa could boost memory in some older adults.

The study involved more than 3,500 people and lasted for three years.

Flavanols are a common type of chemist it occurs naturally in a variety of foods including cocoa, tea, and grapes

The study was conducted by researchers from a variety of institutions including Columbia University, Harvard University, New York University and the University of Reading in the UK.

The participants were divided into two more or less equal groups. One received a flavanol dietary supplement while the other received a placebo.

The researchers used tools including Alternative Health Eating Index (aHEI) scores and the Modified Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (ModRey) to identify baseline health and memory scores.

Participants were followed up for a period of 3 years.

The greatest improvements were seen among those with the lowest aHEI scores (below 38), which, according to the researchers, reflects a diet quality ranging from the US average to slightly below average.

They found that those who had a poor diet but received a flavanol pill had sustained increases in baseline memory levels compared with those who received a placebo pill.

The pill contained about 500 milligrams of cocoa-based flavanols, a natural compound.

The study was partially funded by food company Mars Inc.

Dr. Adam Brickman (PhD), one of the study’s authors, says it’s important to keep in mind that while much research on memory in older adults tends to focus on conditions like Alzheimer’s, research like his and his teams is more focused on what is called cognitive aging.

I think, based on the experiments we’ve done over the last 15 years or so, we’re tapping into a memory system that we think changes with normal aging.

Those whose test results included medium and high aHEI scores didn’t see the same improvements with the pill.

Kelsey Costa (MS, RDN) says research like this can have a significant impact on the field, as practitioners and clients come to better understand how diet can impact cognitive performance.

Just as some nutrients are crucial for brain development, some nutrients are essential for maintaining cognitive function as we age. Prioritizing preventative nutrition that promotes healthy aging is critical, and incorporating flavanols into your diet is an integral part of this strategy.

While the studio’s designers chose cocoa-based flavanols, there are plenty of other options including teas, berries, and grapes. Maya Feller (MS, RD, CDN) says it’s important to make sure you choose an accessible method to boost flavanol levels.

Flavanols are found in a wide variety of plants including fruits, vegetables, teas, cocoa and fermented grapes. I generally recommend people start with affordable, accessible, culturally relevant, and tasty plants as an entry point to incorporate them into their way of eating. Canned, fresh, frozen, canned, and jarred are all options for adding more plants to a person’s eating pattern.

It’s important to note that some in the field are less sure that the study shows significant benefits related to increasing flavanol levels outside those on less than ideal diets.

Dr Naveed Sattar, Professor of Metabolic Medicine, University of Glasgow, said in comments shared by the Science Media Centre, that studies like this can give the illusion of benefit and that it is much better for the general person not to immediately go looking for a drastic increase in their intake of flavanols.

People should not rush into such drinks or diets, but rather keep doing the things that we know 100% protect against many diseases eat better (and fewer calories if overweight), walk a little more and sleep well and have their traditional risk factors and, if necessary, improved.

Another person who was not involved in the study, Dr Aedin Cassidy, chair of nutrition and preventive medicine at the Institute for Global Food Security, Queens University Belfast, shared in the same release that the dosage suggested by the researchers is what most people should be able to meet if they feel the need to make dietary changes.

The dose required for these improvements in brain health is easily achievable, e.g. 1 cup of tea, 6 squares of dark chocolate, a couple of berry/apple servings together would provide approximately 500mg of flavanols

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