In a new study from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, researchers found that eating 2.5 grams of pure natural cocoa powder serves to improve visual acuity in healthy young adults and in daylight conditions.
They analyzed the effects of two dietary polyphenols: cocoa flavanols and red berry anthocyanins.
They did not see any effect either on adaptation to darkness or on visual acuity measured in low light conditions (mesopic vision), either with cocoa or with berries.
The researchers attributed the positive effects on photopic visual acuity to improved attention or processing of visual information thanks to the flavanols and theobromine, a group of alkaloids that stimulate the central nervous system and are found in cocoa, similar to caffeine in coffee.
In the study, the volunteers drank a glass of milk with cocoa, berries, or just milk on three separate visits. The levels of polyphenols in their urine were measured after three hours.
To measure visual acuity, letter charts were placed four meters from the individuals in different lighting conditions, one high (photopic) and one low (mesopic).
Before these tests, a series of questionnaires and eye examinations were conducted to demonstrate the absence of any dietary factor or prior pathology which could give rise to any error in the analysis of the results and the conclusions drawn.
Future work is needed to confirm that the effect is real and that the results could be applied to the design of products that could help to improve visual acuity and attention in defined populations.
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The study is published in the Journal of Functional Foods. One author of the study is María Cinta Puell Marín.
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