Planta Med 2008; 74 - SL91
DOI: 10.1055/s-0028-1083971

Improved cognitive performance and mood in healthy adults following acute consumption of a cocoa flavanol-rich drink

CF Haskell 1, DO Kennedy 1, AL Milne 1, AB Scholey 2
  • 1Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Centre, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8ST, U
  • 2Brain Sciences Institute, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Victoria, 3122, Australia

The consumption of foods rich in cocoa flavanols (CF) has been shown to increase flow-mediated vasodilation, and cerebral blood flow. Acute ingestion of other plants with similar vasodilatory properties has been shown to improve performance during mentally demanding tasks. Similar effects may be expected following the consumption of foods rich in CF. The present randomised, controlled, double-blind, balanced-crossover study investigated the acute cognitive and subjective effects of CF consumption during a mentally demanding battery.

Thirty healthy adults consumed a cocoa drink containing 520mg or 993mg CF or a matched control. Assessments, undertaken at baseline and 6 times in succession at 90 minutes post-consumption, included the state anxiety inventory (STAI) and the Cognitive Demand Battery – comprised of two serial subtraction tasks, a Rapid Visual Information Processing (RVIP) task and a 'mental fatigue' scale.

The consumption of beverages containing 520mg and 993mg CF significantly increased the number of correct serial three subtractions as compared to the control. The 993mg CF beverage significantly improved speed of RVIP at two time points; however, this level also resulted in a significant increase in the number of errors in serial sevens subtraction. Increases in 'mental fatigue' were attenuated by consumption of the 520mg CF beverage.

The acute consumption of drinks rich in CF was able to significantly improve aspects of cognitive performance and mood during a mentally demanding battery. The consumption of 520mg CF consistently improved serial three subtractions and mood, suggesting that this lower level may be preferred.