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The Efficacy of Dietary Supplementation with Cocoa to Improve Cognitive Function in Adults

11 August 2016


Background: Cocoa is a product of processing of the cocoa bean. It is rich in flavanols, a subgroup of flavonoids, a common compound in plants. Cocoa flavanols have positive effect on the cardiovascular system. Cognitive effects of these compounds have been investigated, but not proved to be of significance in the past.

Methods: An exhaustive search of available literature was conducted using the MEDLINE-Ovid, Google Scholar and CINAHL databases. Keywords searched included cocoa and cognition. Articles that assessed effects of cocoa flavanols on cognition were included. The quality of relevant articles was evaluated using the GRADE Working Group guidelines.

Results: This review summarizes the accumulated evidence of research of cognitive effects of cocoa flavanols not covered by Scholey et al and Sokolov et al. Three randomized controlled studies met eligibility criteria and were included in this systematic review. One study of 37 adults found a statistically significant improvement in performance of cognitive tests in patients using cocoa flavanols supplementation. A second study of 90 adults showed acute improvements in performance of fatigability tests. In the third study 37 adults patients showed improvements in activation of dentate gyrus of the hippocampus as well as some memory tests. All studies had low quality of evidence based on the GRADE guidelines.

Conclusion: Cocoa-derived flavanols need further investigation to understand their effect on cognition and memory but preliminary results are promising.

Keywords: Cocoa and cognition.


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