Cocoa contains polyphenols that are thought to be beneficial for vascular health.
We assessed the impact of chocolate containing distinct concentrations of cocoa on cerebrovascular function and cognition.
Using a counterbalanced within-subject design, we compared the acute impact of consumption of energy-matched chocolate containing 80%, 35%, and 0% single-origin cacao on vascular endothelial function, cognition, and cerebrovascular function in 12 healthy postmenopausal women (mean ± SD age: 57.3 ± 5.3 y). Participants attended a familiarization session, followed by 3 experimental trials, each separated by 1 wk. Outcome measures included cerebral blood flow velocity (CBFv) responses, recorded before and during completion of a computerized cognitive assessment battery (CogState); brachial artery flow-mediated dilation (FMD); and hemodynamic responses (heart rate and blood pressure).
When CBFv data before and after chocolate intake were compared between conditions through the use of 2-factor ANOVA, an interaction effect (P = 0.003) and main effects for chocolate (P = 0.043) and time (P = 0.001) were evident. Post hoc analysis revealed that both milk chocolate (MC; 35% cocoa; P = 0.02) and dark chocolate (DC; 80% cocoa; P = 0.003) induced significantly lower cerebral blood flow responses during the cognitive tasks, after normalizing for changes in arterial pressure. DC consumption also increased brachial FMD compared with the baseline value before chocolate consumption (P = 0.002), whereas MC and white chocolate (0% cocoa) caused no change (P-interaction between conditions = 0.034).
Consumption of chocolate containing high concentrations of cocoa enhanced vascular endothelial function, which was reflected by improvements in FMD. Cognitive function outcomes did not differ between conditions; however, cerebral blood flow responses during these cognitive tasks were lower in those consuming MC and DC. These findings suggest that chocolate containing high concentrations of cocoa may modify the relation between cerebral metabolism and blood flow responses in postmenopausal women. This trial was registered at www.ANZCTR.orgau as ACTRN12616000990426.