Harvard researchers studied a group of seniors who didn’t have dementia and found drinking two cups of cocoa each day improved blood flow to the brain and led to better scores on memory tests.
For their 2013 study, published in the online issue of Neurology this week, researchers from the Harvard Medical School in Boston recruited 60 people with an average age of 73 who did not have dementia.
After putting them on a diet of two cups of hot chocolate a day — supplied by confectionery giant Mars — for 30 days, scientists measured the amount of blood flow to participants’ brains as they undertook memory and cognitive tests.
Healthy blood flow plays an important role in cognitive diseases.
As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow, explained lead author Farzaneh Sorond.
“This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”
If you are going to reach for a piece of chocolate, a Danish study suggests reaching for the dark kind, as it’s more filling than the sugar-loaded milk variety and lessens cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods.
A 2014 study from Columbia University Medical Center confirms the link but points that it is really the cocoa, not any old chocolate, that is helpful.
Dietary cocoa flavanols—naturally occurring bioactives found in cocoa—reversed age-related memory decline in healthy older adults. The study, published in Nature Neuroscience, provides 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 a dietary intervention.
But, as Business Insider pointed out in October, 2014, “Whilst the researchers warned that the product was not the same as chocolate, the results will no doubt be stretched out to provide some dramatic headlines of the “could chocolate beat dementia?” variety. Needless to say the image that will accompany the story will be one of a cup of steaming hot chocolate. The problem is that processing cocoa for the chocolate (either solid or in liquid form) can remove most of the flavanols.