Raw Cocoa Component, Not Mere Chocolate, Improved Memory In Recent Study: 60-Year-Olds Gained Back The Memory They Had 20-30 Years Prior

A study, funded in part by the company that makes us Snickers and Dove bars, revealed that flavanols in raw cocoa beans can drastically improve memory loss associated with aging. Researchers had seen this memory improvement from raw cocoa flavanols in mice, but wanted to see if it would work in humans as well. The results were significant, and the improvement from ingesting raw cocoa flavanols was noticeable, as the Inquisitr previously reported.

“If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study,” Dr. Small reported, “after 3 months that person on average had the memory of a typical 30- or 40-year-old.”

So, while the public is rejoicing that eating chocolate can prevent memory loss, the researchers say that’s not technically accurate. Though chocolate is made from cocoa beans, when cocoa is processed to make typical chocolate, most of the flavanols are lost.

“The researchers point out that the product used in the study is not the same as chocolate,” SciTech Daily stressed, citing the differences between the chocolate Americans consume and the raw cocoa tested in this study, “and they caution against an increase in chocolate consumption in an attempt to gain this effect.”

The Inquisitr reported previously on the specifics of the study which lasted three months, but an excited public, eager to justify chocolate consumption, overlooked a key factor mentioned in that and the many other articles on the newly published memory study.

The flavanols in the study came from a cocoa drink, not a mere mug of hot cocoa, that was specially produced for the study by the food and chocolate manufacturer Mars, which in part funded the research. Mars Botanical is a research and development company owned by Mars. They were able to develop a process that allowed the flavanols to be captured and retained, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The research team, led by Dr. Scott Small, published their findings about raw cocoa flavanols in the journal Nature Neuroscience. Small said that memory loss starts in early adulthood, but only becomes very noticeable in our 50s or 60s, according to Medical News Today. The memory loss seems to be the result of changes in the area of the brain known as the dentate gyrus. Small says that the new research indicates that raw cocoa flavanols can reverse this and improve age-related memory decline, but as the Inquisitr previously reported, the improved group of participants were given 900 mg of the cocoa flavanols.

In the raw cocoa study, Small and his team measured blood volume that was specific to the dentate gyrus. The team says that the blood volume measurement is also a measurement of the metabolism of this area of the brain. Also published in October, another study showed that an “MRI technique was able to pick up reductions in blood flow to a brain region linked to memory,” according to U.S. News and World Report. That other study, which was published in the journal Radiology, did show that reductions in blood flow in study participants were an indicator of who would show memory loss 18 months later, compounding the reliability of the blood volume connection in the cocoa study.

Research is mounting about raw cocoa and brain health. For example. another article in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology explained that “flavanol-rich cocoa could acutely increase CBF in gray matter, suggesting it may have potential for the treatment of cerebrovascular deficits.”

Small says that before his team can establish a causal link between age-related memory and raw cocoa flavanols, a much larger study is planned to see if the results can be replicated.

[Photo via Pixabay]