The health benefits of eating chocolate have been revealed in new tasty study.
We’ve all been looking for an excuse to eat more chocolate even though the doctors warn us to watch our waste lines and blood sugar. Chocolate. Yes, chocolate can reverse the decline in our memory as we age. It’s not a candy bar as we know it, but it’s an extract from cocoa beans made by a candy company.
I’m not making this up, chocolate lovers—but before you get your hopes up, you couldn’t possibly safely eat enough chocolate to make a difference with your memory as if we’re 20 years to 30 years younger.
The buzz comes from a study led by the Columbia University Medical Center that says dietary cocoa flavanols—naturally occurring bioactives found in cocoa—“reversed age-related memory decline in healthy older adults,” according to the study.
Dr. Scott Small, a Columbia neurologist and the senior author of the study, says it’s the first “direct evidence that one component of age-related memory decline in humans” is caused by changes in a specific region of the brain and that this form of memory decline can be improved by what you intake in your body.
The Columbia study focuses on normal age-related memory decline and is not on Alzheimer’s and treatment of that disease that damages and destroys neurons in parts of the brain. So its focus is on those in their 50s and 60s who forget where they parked the car, put their keys or remember names of new people they have met.
In this latest study, the Columbia team tested whether the cocoa flavanol compounds can improve brain function in the region of the brain called the dentate gyrus, which is associated with memory decline in age, Small says. In previous studies, flavanols extracted from cocoa beans had improved neuronal connections in that part of the brain of mice, he says.
What researchers did was prepare a cocoa-flavanol drink produced by Mars Inc., which backed the research, and gave it to 37 health volunteers between 50 and 69. The group was selected at random to get either a high-flavanol diet of 900 mg a day or low-flavanol diet of 10 mg a day over three months, according to researchers.
The researchers conducted brain imaging and memory tests to participants before and after the study. The imaging tests measured blood volume in the dentate gyrus while the memory test involved a 20-minute pattern-recognition exercise, researchers says.
“When we imaged our research subject’s brains, we found noticeable improvements in the function of the dentate gyrus in those who consumed the high-cocoa-flavanol drink,” says Adam Brickman, one of the authors and an associate professor of neuropsychology at the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia.
Small says the high-flavanol group also performed better on the memory test.
“If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months that person on average had the memory of a typical 30- or 40-year-old,” Small says.
Despite the positives learned from the study, however, Small says the work needs to be replicated on a larger scale.
Small also says people shouldn’t be consuming chocolate because even though the extract is made from cocoa beans and done by Mars, the product isn’t the same as chocolate we consume.
Small has done previous studies that show exercise improves memory and that the dentate gyrus function in younger people.