Photo: Raw cocoa pods
Researchers at Columbia University Medical center have found that the flavenols, naturally occurring bio-actives found in cocoa can reverse age related memory loss in seniors.
As people age, they typically show some decline in cognitive abilities, including learning and remembering such things as the names of new acquaintances or where they parked the car or placed their keys. This normal age-related memory decline starts in early adulthood but usually does not have any noticeable impact on quality of life until people reach their fifties or sixties. Age-related memory decline is different from the often-devastating memory impairment that occurs with Alzheimer’s, in which a disease process damages and destroys neurons in various parts of the brain, including the memory circuits.
“When we imaged our research subjects’ brains, we found noticeable improvements in the function of the dentate gyrus in those who consumed the high-cocoa-flavanol drink,” said lead author Adam M. Brickman, PhD, associate professor of neuropsychology at the Taub Institute.
The high-flavanol group also performed significantly better on the memory test.
“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,” said Dr. Small. He cautioned, however, that the findings need to be replicated in a larger study—which he and his team plan to do.
It seems that cocoa still has some secrets left to share with us. Earlier this year the results of numerous experiments over that last five years concluded that high cocoa solid chocolate can have a beneficial effect on high blood pressure and those at risk from coronary heart disease.