Cocoa antioxidants boost the aging brain


High doses of cocoa flavanols can improve some types of brain function in older individuals, a new study shows.

Klaus Höpfner/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Guest post by Bethany Brookshire

A type of antioxidant found in cocoa may benefit the brain when eaten in high doses.

A group of 50- to 65-year-old adults who ate 900 milligrams of cocoa antioxidants called flavanols per day for three months performed better on a visual pattern separation task than those on a low-flavanol supplement. (A 900-milligram dose is an order of magnitude higher than the flavanol content of most chocolate.) The individuals’ increased performance was associated with higher blood flow in the dorsal hippocampus, a brain area associated with learning and memory.

Cocoa flavanols have been previously linked with enhanced hippocampus blood flow in younger people. The increase in blood flow in older adults may help prevent age-related memory decline, scientists suggest October 26 in Nature Neuroscience. Sadly, the authors note that the result does not imply people should eat more chocolate.

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