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Chocolate May Reverse Memory Loss

A recent study suggests chocolate could reverse memory loss. The data, which was compiled by neurologists at Columbia University Medical Center, was published in Sunday’s edition of Nature Neuroscience. Although the study was limited, the researchers concluded that a component of cocoa can improve memory and slow memory loss.

The study included 37 participants between the ages of 50 and 69. At the onset of the study, each subject was given a memory test. They were then asked to consume drinks, which contained flavonol antioxidants. The flavonols are natural antioxidants, which are extracted from cocoa beans.

Each subject was asked to consume the drinks for a period of three months. At the end of the three months, each participant was given a second memory test. The results suggest chocolate could reverse and prevent memory loss.

As reported by New York Times, the subjects who consumed higher doses of the flavonols performed significantly better on their second memory test.

Dr. Scott Small, who led the study, explains.

“If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months that person on average had the memory of a typical 30- or 40-year-old.”

Dr. Small said higher doses of cocoa flavonols “cause an improvement in the are of the brain that’s affected by aging.

The results are good news for adults who suffer age-related memory loss. However, Small said the flavonols probably will not reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

The research suggests cocoa flavonols increase activity in a section of the brain called the dentate gyrus. Although the dentate gyrus is linked to memory, Alzheimer’s and dementia are linked to another section of the brain called the entorhinal cortex. Unfortunately, the flavonols have not been shown to increase activity in the entorhinal cortex.

Although a component of chocolate appears to improve memory and reverse memory loss, the participants were given 900 milligrams of the cocoa flavonols. The average chocolate bar contains only 40 milligrams. Unfortunately, a majority of the flavonols are removed from cocoa during processing.

Supplements containing cocoa flavonols are available for purchase, but it would be difficult to consume 900 milligrams. Mars, who founded Small’s research, currently sells the antioxidants in 20 and 25 milligram doses. As reported by The Washington Post, the participants were provided with a special drink, which was designed specifically for the study.

The results of the study are certainly encouraging. However, Dr. Small admits more studies are necessary to prove chocolate will reverse and prevent memory loss.

[Image via Lititz Chocolate]