Cocoa may boost memory in older adults
A new study has determined that certain compounds found in cocoa may help reverse memory decline in older adults.
Previous animal studies have found that flavanols--a kind of antioxidant--found in cocoa beans may improve connections made in the brain region called the dentate gyrus, which plays a critical role in learning and memory.
In the new study, scientists from Columbia University Medical Center focused on whether cocoa flavanols could have a similar effect in humans and help improve age-related memory decline. They recruited 37 healthy adults between the ages 50 and 69, who took part in a three-month study. Some of the adults were asked to follow a low-flavanol diet, consuming 10 mg of flavanols a day. The other adults were asked to follow a high-flavanol diet, consuming 900 mg of flavanols a day. All participants received their dose of flavanols by drinking the same cocoa drink.
The researchers also assessed the participants' brain function at the beginning and at the end of the study, through the use of a brain imaging technique as well as through memory tests.
The results of the study, published in Nature Neuroscience, showed that the participants who followed the high-flavanol diet performed better on the memory tests than did the participants who followed the low-flavanol diet. The high-flavanol group also showed improved function of their dentate gyrus.
The study's findings suggest that cocoa flavanols may help improve memory in older adults, although researchers warned that consuming chocolate will not lead to the same effects found in the study, as chocolate is processed and does not contain the same levels of cocoa flavanols found in the drink used for the research. The researchers said they will conduct larger studies to determine whether their findings can be replicated.