A compound that is found in chocolate could have health benefits and improve function in the brain, new research suggests.
Researchers found that cocoa flavanols, a chemical that is found in chocolate, could lead to improved stimulation of the part of the brain that deals with memory, according to a study by doctors at Columbia University and published in Nature Neuroscience.
The study involved 37 participants, who ranged from ages 50 to 69. Half of the participants took daily supplements that contained 900 milligrams of cocoa flavanols and the other half took only 10 milligrams.
Participants were asked to complete tasks that were designed to stimulate the part of the brain associated with memory that often declines with age. Using an MRI machine, the researchers monitored the brain function of the participants as they completed tasks as well as measuring the amount of time it took them to complete.
It was found that the half of participants who took the larger daily amount of cocoa flavanols had better reaction times and blood flow to the part of the brain that is associated with memory.
The results of the study could provide evidence of cocoa flavanols being part of treatments options and prevention of memory loss. As the study was focused only participants who had healthy brain function, further research would be needed in regards to patients who already suffer from brain illness such as Alzheimer’s disease.
As chocolate bars only contain miniscule amounts of flavanols, the researchers point out that eating large amounts of chocolate would mean more calories and sugar intake and possibly even outweigh the benefits stated in the study.