A new study demonstrates how a diet rich in cocoa flavanols may help us maintain our cognitive health as we grow older. Yes, you read that correctly: Chocolate may be good for your brain. However, there’s a little more to it than gorging as you please on candy bars.
While past studies have demonstrated the benefits of cocoa flavanols for people suffering from mild cognitive impairment, the current study focused on healthy people experiencing the usual mental wear and tear that comes with older age. The researchers, some employed by chocolate-maker Mars Inc., began their study by enlisting the help of men and women between the ages of 61 and 85. Participants were given a drink containing either a high, medium, or low amounts of cocoa flavanols every day for eight weeks. However, these were not simple cups of hot cocoa, but drinks made with a specially prepared flavanol-rich powder.
So what did the researchers discover? The volunteers who drank either the high- or medium-flavanol drinks showed significant improvements in their overall cognitive function after only eight weeks. Plus, the group showed reduced blood pressure and improved insulin resistance. The researchers believe these positive results may be due, in part, to improved vascular function.