Some studies are revealing and paradigm-changing. Other studies are — well — good enough to eat.
Now a new bit of research confirms what many have posited before: chocolate is good for you. A recent study, reviewed by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that “cocoa ﬂavanol consumption” is good for the brain and may very well “improve cognitive function, blood pressure control, and metabolic proﬁle in elderly subjects.”
“Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Study—A Randomized Controlled Trial,” puts one more square of chocolate firmly on the game board when it comes to the benefits of chocolate consumption.
The research, which suggests that the naturally occurring flavanols in cocoa reverse age-related memory loss in healthy older adults, was conducted by scientists at Columbia University Medical Center and Mars, Inc.
There is a difference between the serious memory-destroying diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer’s and ordinary age-related memory loss. All of us lose some memory capability as we age — about 40 percent of people over the age of 65, according to statistics.
That “normal” age-related memory loss is tied to a specific part of the brain called the dentate gyrus, located in the hippocampus. That’s the area of the brain that is critical for the formation of new memories.
According to the researchers, dietary intervention — including chocolate consumption — might help reverse it.
As it turns out, the flavanols in chocolate are bioactive compounds which have the potential to help maintain healthy brain function. In recent experiments with mice, researchers have found flavanols can improve neuronal connections in the dentate gyrus — the very part of the brain related to memory.
Or, in the words of the study authors: “Evidence suggestive of neuro-protective effects of ﬂavonoids, polyphenolic compounds that are present in plant-based foods, has increased in recent years. Epidemiologic studies suggest a positive association between ﬂavonoid intake and lower prevalence of cognitive impairment and better cognitive performance. Among the ﬂavonoids, ﬂavanols, a subclass abundant in tea, grapes, and cocoa products, have been proposed to have the potential to counteract many aspects of cognitive decline.”
Of course, it could be impossible to eat an amount of chocolate that would completely eradicate memory loss. But there’s an important takeaway in this research nonetheless: chocolate is good for us, and we should remember to eat some — not just for fun, but for our health.