Can Cocoa Help Reverse Age-Related Memory Loss?

Can Cocoa Help Reverse Age-Related Memory Loss?
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As if you needed another excuse to eat chocolate.

Here’s another reason to keep eating chocolate: scientists at Columbia University have found that the plant compounds called dietary cocoa flavanols found in cocoa could actually reverse the effects of age-related memory loss, including dementia and Alzheimer’s.

But before you go out and buy extra Halloween candy for your grandma, scientists say that most chocolate bars sold in stores would only have negligible traces of this essential ingredient, but that a concentrated dose of cocoa flavanols could actually make a difference for an older person who is suffering from memory loss. During a study, researchers found that test subjects between the ages of 50 and 69 who took the high dosage of the cocoa flavanols performed better in memory-related tests than those who took a low dosage, or no dose at all. At the end of the study, those who regularly consumed the concentrated cocoa dosage for three months had a memory that would function like a 30- or 40-year-old’s, as opposed to a 60-year-old’s.

“This well-designed but small study suggests the antioxidants found in cocoa can improve cognitive performance by improving blood flow to a certain region of the brain,” Dr. Clare Walton, researcher at the Alzheimer’s Society, told the Daily Mail.

This is the first direct evidence, said scientists who performed the study, that age-related memory problems are caused by a specific region of the brain (specifically dentate gyrus, a region of the hippocampus), and could be righted by a change in diet. 

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Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi