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Could it make you smarter? How to improve cognition-the benefits of flavanols

What is flavanol

Flavanols are a natural plant compound that is naturally found in foods and beverages, including cocoa, tea, red wine, blueberries, apples, pears, cherries and peanuts. Flavanols are unstable in nature, easy to oxidize and polymerize, and most of them are amorphous powders. They also have a variety of stereoisomeric forms with very similar properties, making it difficult to separate and purify.

Flavanols can maintain normal blood pressure by maintaining human vascular health, can maintain healthy blood flow by reducing the adhesion of platelets in the blood, and can also act as an antioxidant to maintain heart health.

Application of flavanols

A recent study shows that increasing the intake of flavanols in your diet can improve your "thinking agility."

A team of scientists at the University of Birmingham concluded that people who consumed cocoa beverages with high levels of flavanols were able to perform cognitive tasks "more efficiently" than drinking beverages that did not contain flavanols.

The study also performed brain imaging of the participants to measure blood oxygenation levels in the brain. Researchers collaborated with experts at the University of Illinois and found that participants who drank flavanol-rich beverages had "faster and greater oxygenation levels in the blood due to artificially increased levels of carbon dioxide (hypercapnia)." "To increase. Researchers believe that flavanols have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health, but the effect on brain health is not very clear. The research was published in "Science Reports". This is the "first" of flavanols in young, healthy subjects regarding the cognitive function and the connection with blood oxygenation in the brain.

In this study, 18 healthy male participants aged 18-40 underwent a "standard procedure" to challenge the blood circulation in the brain, which requires breathing 5% of carbon dioxide-about 100 times the normal concentration in the air , Which produces an effect called hypercapnia. And observe changes through non-invasive near-infrared spectroscopy technology. Non-invasive near-infrared spectroscopy is a technology that uses light to capture changes in blood oxygen levels. It is used to track the increase in brain oxygenation in the frontal cortex of the brain in response to the challenge of carbon dioxide. . Each participant was tested twice before and after drinking cocoa.

After the carbon dioxide test, participants were asked to complete a series of increasingly complex cognitive tests. After taking beverages rich in flavanols, the subjects had the highest blood oxygenation level for hypercapnia, which was three times that of non-flavanol beverages. They also reached these high levels in as little as a minute. In cognitive tests, researchers found that volunteers had "significant differences" in the speed and accuracy of completing more complex tasks. Volunteers taking flavanol-rich beverages completed tasks on average 11% faster.

Although the general trend indicates that the intake of flavanols promotes blood oxidation, the researchers pointed out that in the cohort of this study, there are "a small group of people" who did not get rid of the yellow blood either in terms of blood oxygenation or in terms of cognition. Benefit from the intake of alkanols. This group of people first showed a high level of cerebral oxygenation. This may indicate that some people are already healthy and they have no room for further improvement. This small group of participants who did not respond to flavanols gave us more evidence to confirm the link between increased cerebral blood oxygenation and cognitive ability.

in conclusion

The results of the study showed that participants who consumed flavanol-rich cocoa beverages had significantly higher benefits when the task became sufficiently complicated. We can relate this to the results of our improved blood oxygenation: if there are more challenges in life, such as solving some problems, you can take flavanol-rich beverages, which can improve your brain Blood oxygen level to meet the challenge. It further shows that flavanols may be particularly beneficial in some cognitively demanding tasks. This shows that increasing the intake of flavanols in the diet can improve our "thinking agility."

References: Gratton Gabriele, Weaver Samuel R., Burley Claire V., Low Kathy A., Maclin Edward L., Johns Paul W., Pham Quang S., Lucas Samuel JE, Fabiani Monica, Rendeiro Catarina. Dietary flavanols improve cerebral cortical oxygenation and cognition in healthy adults[J]. Scientific Reports,2020,10(1).

Information source: Food Nutrition, Health and Safety