Sweet News for Older Adults with Mild Memory Loss

Scientists from Columbia University Medical Center have recently made a sweet discovery. They found that supplementing with antioxidant flavanols from cocoa (used to make chocolate) reversed age-related memory decline in older adults. Their study, published this month in Nature Neuroscience, divided 37 healthy adults between the ages of 50 and 69 into two groups; one received a high-flavanol drink derived from cocoa (providing 900 mg flavanols daily), while the other received a low-flavanol drink (providing 10 mg flavanols daily). Researchers also took brain image scans and conducted memory tests before and after participants consumed the flavanols. After three months:

  • Adults receiving a high amount of cocoa flavanols experienced about a 25% increase in memory function as compared to the low-flavanol group.
  • The improvement was so great that, on average, someone with the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study had the memory of a typical 30- or 40-year-old by the end of the study.
  • Image scans showed an increased function in the dentate gyrus of adults receiving a high amount of flavanols; the dentate gyrus is an area of the brain associated with memory.

Nevertheless, researchers caution against consuming large amounts of chocolate to get these reported benefits. Candy bars, in particular, often have low amounts of chocolate, and it would be difficult to consume—through chocolate alone—the amount of flavanols given to study participants. In addition, the study was partly funded by the chocolate company, Mars, Inc.; however, experts appear to regard the new research as a well-conducted trial.

Source: Nature Neuroscience

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