Study Details

Scientists at Columbia University studied the role of diet on cognitive performance, including memory, and whether adding cocoa flavanols to their normal diet could help support memory. Over 200 healthy adults were divided into 4 groups. Three of the groups received either a low, medium, or high amount of cocoa flavanols to take every day along with their normal diet for 12 weeks. The fourth group didn’t supplement with cocoa flavanols during the study.

The results? A 14% improvement in 12 weeks for those in the high flavanol group who had a low diet quality.

Key Takeaways

collage of  memories and images
  • Healthy adults who added cocoa flavanols to their typical diets had improved memory (shown by remembering a list of words) compared to the control group.
  • The effects of cocoa flavanols on memory were greater in people with less healthy diets.
  • List learning is a task linked to long-term memory.
  • Those in the high flavanol group, and had a low diet quality, remembered 14% more words in a list learning test than the control group after 12 weeks.
  • Researchers could determine cocoa flavanols were responsible for the memory improvements in this study because when participants stopped taking them, the memory benefits went away.

The Results

Long Term Memory icon

14% Memory Improvement

In the high cocoa flavanol group,
those with low diet quality showed a 14% improvement in a task linked to
long-term memory, compared to the control group after 12 weeks.

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Over 10 Years of Memory Research

These results add to a growing body of scientific data that suggests when healthy adults add cocoa flavanols to their typical (even average American) diets, they can help support their cognitive function, including memory, as they age.

What did we learn?

Healthy adults taking 770mg of cocoa flavanols daily, a similar amount found in CocoaVia Memory+, every day for 12 weeks helped improve memory in a double-blind, placebo controlled, clinical study done by Columbia University. 

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Study Abstract

With the world's population aging, age-related memory decline is an impending cognitive epidemic. Assessing the impact of diet on cognitive aging, we conducted a controlled, randomized, parallel-arm dietary intervention with 211 healthy adults (50–75 years) investigating effects of either a placebo or 260, 510 and 770 mg/day of cocoa flavanols for 12-weeks followed by 8-weeks washout. The primary outcome was a newly-developed object-recognition task localized to the hippocampus’ dentate gyrus. Secondary outcomes included a hippocampal-dependent list-learning task and a prefrontal cortex-dependent list-sorting task. The alternative Healthy Eating Index and a biomarker of flavanol intake (gVLM) were measured. In an MRI substudy, hippocampal cerebral blood volume was mapped. Object-recognition and list-sorting performance did not correlate with baseline diet quality and did not improve after flavanol intake. However, the hippocampal-dependent list-learning performance was directly associated with baseline diet quality and improved after flavanol intake, particularly in participants in the bottom tertile of baseline diet quality. In the imaging substudy, a region-of-interest analysis was negative but a voxel-based-analysis suggested that dietary flavanols target the dentate gyrus. While replication is needed, these findings suggest that diet in general, and dietary flavanols in particular, may be associated with memory function of the aging hippocampus and normal cognitive decline.