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The effects of flavonoid and other polyphenol consumption on cognitive performance: A systematic research review of human experimental and epidemiological studies


Literature reviews suggest flavonoids, a sub-class of polyphenols, are beneficial for cognition. This is the first review examining the effect of consumption of all polyphenol groups on cognitive function. Inclusion criteria were polyphenol vs. control interventions and epidemiological studies with an objective measure of cognitive function. Participants were healthy or mildly cognitively impaired adults. Studies were excluded if clinical assessment or diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, dementia, or cognitive impairment was the sole measure of cognitive function, or if the polyphenol was present with potentially confounding compounds such as caffeine (e.g. tea studies) or Ginkgo Biloba. 28 studies were identified; 4 berry juice studies, 4 cocoa studies, 13 isoflavone supplement studies, 3 other supplement studies, and 4 epidemiological surveys. Overall, 16 studies reported cognitive benefits following polyphenol consumption. Evidence suggests that consuming additional polyphenols in the diet can lead to cognitive benefits, however, the observed effects were small. Declarative memory and particularly spatial memory appear most sensitive to polyphenol consumption and effects may differ depending on polyphenol source. Polyphenol berry fruit juice consumption was most beneficial for immediate verbal memory, whereas isoflavone based interventions were associated with significant improvements for delayed spatial memory and executive function. Comparison between studies was hampered by methodological inconsistencies. Hence, there was no clear evidence for an association between cognitive outcomes and polyphenol dose response, duration of intervention, or population studied. In conclusion, however, the findings do imply that polyphenol consumption has potential to benefit cognition both acutely and chronically.