Good news: Drinking a cocoa-rich beverage or biting a chunk of rich, dark chocolate every day may help brain health in older adults, a new study shows.
The study, recently published in the journal Hypertension and announced this week, looked at data from 90 seniors who already had mild cognitive impairment, which often includes difficulty with memory, language, thinking, or judgment.
For eight weeks, subjects drank a cocoa drink that had high, medium, or low amounts of antioxidants called flavanols. Those who drank high and medium levels of flavanols in their cocoa outperformed those who consumed low doses on tests of attention and other mental skills.
Head researcher Dr. Giovambattista Desideri, of the University of L'Aquila in Italy, said: "This study provides encouraging evidence that consuming cocoa flavanols, as a part of a calorie controlled and nutritionally balanced diet, could improve cognitive function."
"We can't say, Eat chocolate every day," neurologist and Alzheimer's disease researcher Marc L. Gordon, MD, of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, NY, told WebMD. "People need to be very careful about making broad-based dietary changes based on one study."
The research was funded by candy giant Mars, Inc., which has sponsored numerous studies examining the health benefits of cocoa flavanols.
Other studies have linked dark chocolate with helping to protect against intestinal diseases like colon cancer, as well as a reduced risk of developing heart disease.