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article imageCan chocolate improve memory?

By Tim Sandle     Jan 2, 2015 in Health
New York - In a new study, chocolate was found to improve the memory of people aged between aged 50 to 69. Sounds good? The only catch is that you would need to consume an excessive amount of chocolate to achieve the memory feat.
The results of the new study showed that after consuming drinks enriched with compounds found in cocoa beans for three months, the recall performance of people aged 50 to 69, as tested via a memory test, was found to match people several decades younger.
Before you rush out and start melting down bars of chocolate there is a catch and one that might carry with it other health consequences, such as obesity. The quantity of chocolate that you would need to consume is enormous.
With the news study, Scott Small, a neurologist at Columbia University in New York City, set out to see what the impact of chocolate is on the human brain. To study this, researchers asked 19 people aged 50 to 69 to drink 900 milligrams a day of powdered cocoa flavanols mixed with water or milk. This dosage was spread over two drinks each day. As a control group, 18 different people drank a similar beverage that contained just 10 milligrams of the same compounds.
Before and after the three months, people in both groups underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging scans (a technique for measuring brain activity.) The scans showed that after the regime was complete, the high-dose flavanol drinkers had about 20 per cent more blood flowing to a particular section of their brain (the dentate gyrus), than they did before. This region of the hippocampus is linked to age-related memory decline in people.
As well as the scans, each participant completed a memory test before and after the three-months. In general, with such tests, people aged from their mid-20s onwards experience a decrease in their reaction times with age (by around 220 milliseconds for each decade of age.)
The study results showed that the high-flavanol group reacted to each shape 630 milliseconds faster than the low-dose group. This was also equivalent to the performance expected from people aged three decades younger.
The study is part of a series of reports that argue that chemicals in cocoa called flavanols can have beneficial effects on the brain. This is specifically in relation to various anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-microbial (antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral), anti-cancer, and anti-diarrheal activities. For example, research conducted back in 2007 demonstrated that plant-derived flavanol enhanced the retention of spatial memory in mice.
Although the new study has shown remarkable results, the study group was very small. Furthermore, it is not known how long the improved memory lasts for once the excessive chocolate consumption stops. Nonetheless, extracts from chocolate could be studied further to see if a safer form of extract produces the same effect.
More about Chocolate, Memory, Recall, Aging, Ageing
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