Adding 500 milligrams of flavanols per day to your diet may slow and potentially improve age-related mental decline, according to a recent study. Flavanols are antioxidant compounds found in foods like green tea, apples, berries, and cocoa. Age-related mental decline affects cognitive abilities such as thinking speed, attention span, and word-finding, but it is distinct from Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The study found that older adults with lower levels of flavanols in their diet performed worse in memory tests. However, when given daily flavanol supplements from cocoa, their performance in an age-related word-recall test improved. The impact on memory was modest and limited to those with a lower-quality diet initially.

Flavanols, also known as flavan-3-ols, are natural compounds found in fruits and vegetables that contribute to vibrant colors. They are bioactive and can affect processes within the body. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends a daily intake of 400 to 600 milligrams of flavanols due to their link to reduced risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. However, chocolate does not contain significant amounts of flavonoids, so a diverse diet incorporating various flavanol-rich foods is necessary. The study used an optimized extraction process to obtain high levels of flavonoids from dark cocoa. To meet the recommended intake of 500 milligrams per day, consuming a variety of flavanol-containing foods is crucial.