Can Chocolate Improve Your Memory and Prevent Dementia?

Chocolate Benefits the Taste Buds and the Brain
Chocolate/Larry Washburn/Getty Images.

Now here's some research news I love! Chocolate, specifically cocoa flavanols, was shown to boost brain power in older adults diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.

A recent study in the journal Hypertension, which is published by the American Heart Association, outlines the news. Ninety older adults who were otherwise healthy but had mild cognitive impairment drank low, medium and high levels of cocoa flavanols (provided by Mars, Inc.) on a daily basis for eight weeks.

They were also instructed to eliminate other potential sources of these flavanols from their diets so that the research would not be influenced by other food choices.

Participants' cognitive functioning, including their short-term memory, working memory and executive functioning, were measured prior to and after the eight weeks. At the end of the study, the results showed a significant improvement in the cognitive functioning for those drinking the medium and the high amounts of the cocoa flavanols, while the low level groups did not show any change. This improvement in cognitive functioning is noteworthy, especially in people with mild cognitive impairment because MCI often progresses to Alzheimer's disease.

Interestingly, participants who drank the medium and high levels of cocoa flavanols also decreased their insulin resistance and their blood pressure levels.

So, can we just raid the candy jar to improve our brain functioning and physical health?

Of course, it's not quite that simple. Fellow expert Sharon Basaraba wrote an interesting article about chocolate flavanols entitled The Healthiest Chocolate. She explains that cocoa undergoes processing that makes it taste sweeter but also decreases some of the health benefits. Unfortunately, the chocolate candies we find in many grocery stores are less likely to have high levels of cocoa flavanols than pure cocoa powder.

However, one might still hear me justify my M&M habit as important for improving my memory.

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