Chocolate May Help Delay Age-Related Memory Loss

In case you needed another excuse to eat junk food…

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It can be exhausting trying to keep up with the latest health food fads. Hardly any of the supposed superfoods taste that great, and many of them actually feel like a chore to eat.

And as soon as we get used to eating mountains of kale, drinking liters of pomegranate juice, and blending up broccoli and avocado smoothies, scientists pull out the rug and tell us we've been doing it wrong all along.

Well, brace yourselves: The next beneficial item on your dinner plate will be... chocolate!

Wait, what?

Chocolate
Sadly most commercial chocolate lacks significant quantities of the cocoa flavanols. View Larger

Yes, according to a recent study from the Columbia University Medical Center, chocolate may have a dramatic positive effect on cognitive abilities. It could even help prevent memory loss in the elderly.

The study (which, it must be noted, was partially funded by the Mars chocolate company) found that test subjects between the age of 50 and 69 displayed dramatically improved memory after consuming concentrated cocoa flavanols. Subjects performed about 25% better than their non-chocolate-consuming counterparts in a series of memory exercises.

Subjects consuming concentrated cocoa flavanols performed about 25% better in memory exercises. Tweet It

Cocoa flavanols are a type of antioxidant extracted from cocoa beans. Antioxidants are well-known for their health benefits, but scientists are a little baffled as to why these particular flavanols create such a pronounced effect. One theory suggests they improve blood flow to the brain, while another posits that they stimulate the growth of neurons.

While the results of this study are cause for cautious celebration, experienced readers won't be surprised to hear there's a catch. Sadly, it turns out munching on a stack of chocolate bars isn't likely to help you remember your anniversary.

That's because the bulk of the flavanols present in cocoa beans are removed from mass-produced chocolate during processing. In fact, in order to ingest the quantity of flavanols you'd need to get a medical-grade effect, you'd have to eat about seven large chocolate bars a day. Needless to say, the negative health effects of that kind of diet would almost certainly negate any positive effect on your memory.

Via: The New York Times
Body image: Flickr user "aigle_dore" (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Hero image: Nestlé (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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