Research on memory loss has shown that the flavanols in cocoa have limited and in some cases reversed forgetfulness in elderly people. This previously unknown benefit of the humble cocoa bean was discovered by scientists at the Columbia University Medical Centre in New York.
37 volunteers aged between 50 and 69 were divided into two groups: one of the groups was given a daily cocoa drink high in flavanols (900mg) and the other group were served drinks with a low dose (10mg).
The trial ran for 3 months after which time the group given the drinks high in flavanols were able to recognise visual patterns quicker and more clearly than the low dose group.
This evidence was reinforced by before and after brain scans of the volunteers. These revealed a greater blood flow in the dentate gyrus part of the hippocampus; one of the few areas of the brain known to generate new brain cells.
Doctor Scott Small, who heads the research said: “ after 3 months, a typical 60 year old volunteer on the high dosage flavanol drinks, gained improved memory function comparable to that of a 30 or 40 year old.”
However the report, which was published in the online journal Nature Neuroscience, does not suggest that eating more chocolate will result in similar outcomes; the drinks provided in the trial were specially formulated.
Nor did the trial claim that improvements in memory could be expected for people suffering from dementia.