The Journal of Functional Foods published a recent study demonstrating that, if adults have healthy eyes, cocoa may help to increase their visual acuity. The study assessed thirty-seven young adults with healthy eyes. Over three visits to the Faculty of Optics and Optometry, the participants drank either (1) a glass of milk, (2) a drink with red-berries, or (3) a drink with cocoa. Then, during each visit, they took a series of tests to check their vision and their eyes’ ability to adjust to the dark.
Why cocoa and red-berries? Both foods are good sources of polyphenols. Polyphenols are non-nutrient food components that have “antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and vasoactive properties” associated with protection against cardiovascular and neurological conditions. Other recent research has also suggested that dark chocolate, which contains polyphenols, can improve visual acuity.
Supporting this prior research, the study found that participants who drank cocoa were significantly better at reading eye charts. Participants who drank the red-berries also trended towards performing better on their vision tests, but the trend was not significant. There was no evidence that either cocoa or red-berries helped participants’ eyes to adjust to the dark.
More research is needed to determine why cocoa improved visual acuity. Researchers confirmed (yes, through urine samples) that participants’ polyphenol levels rose after drinking both red-berries and cocoa. Participants who drank cocoa also showed higher levels of theobromine. And cocoa, of course, also has caffeine. Based on these findings, the researchers speculate that polyphenol, coupled with theobromine and/or caffeine, is responsible for the improvement in visual acuity.
The best part of the study? Since researchers gave participants only one cup of cocoa (rather than force-feeding participants ten cups to get results . . . I’m sure it happens), the study appears to have real-world implications. If you’re an adult with healthy eyes, a cup of cocoa just may sharpen your vision. (And you may be able to cheat on your next eye exam.)
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