A recent small study suggests, lab-created cocoa drinks seems to enhance normal age-related memory loss.
The researchers said, “With the 3 months consumption of special cocoa concoction, a typical memory of a 60-year old person could be enhanced to a 30-40 year old one.”
However, the researchers cautioned that this doesn’t mean that the average person can improve their powers of recall with the commercially available chocolate or cocoa products.
Dr. Scott Small, co-author of the study and the director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center with the Taub Institute at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City stated, “This is really not about chocolate. It would be harmful to one’s health to try and run out and get flavanols from chocolate, which exist in chocolate, but in miniscule amounts.”
According to the researchers, the flavanols are found (to varying degrees) in many types of foods, including tea leaves, fruits and vegetables, as well as raw cocoa.
Though, the method in which most consumer chocolate products are produced renders them flavanol-free. Therefore, the study relied on a process — developed by the food company Mars Inc. — that could specifically preserve and isolate the flavanol in powder form, before being mixed into either water or milk for consumption.
The researchers included 37 healthy volunteers between the ages of 50 and 69 in the study and placed them on a diet enriched with raw cocoa flavanols. However, participants were haphazardly assigned to receive either a high-flavanol diet (900 milligrams) or low-flavanol (10 milligrams) diet for a period of 3- months.
Each participant undergoes brain scans, both before and after the study period in order to monitor changes to a specific area of the brain called the dentate gyrus region, which is assumed to be important in age-related memory loss.
Moreover, all of the volunteers completed a modified version of a well-established 20-minute memory test based on pattern recognition skills. This type of memory is known to be modulated by the dentate gyrus region.
The findings of the study revealed that those in the high-flavanol diet group ended up scoring significantly higher in post-diet testing than those in the low-flavanol diet.
The high-flavanol group also demonstrated improved memory at the end of the three-month experiment, relative to their own abilities before starting the diet.
This is the first study to show a causal connection between a specific area of the brain and age-related memory loss, the authors revealed.
The investigators said more research is needed to further confirm and expand on the findings among a larger pool of participants.