Almost nothing makes me happier than reporting on yet another discovery about the health benefits of chocolate. So it's with immense pleasure that I share with you a new study which found that older adults who drank rich cocoa every day for two months experienced improvements in cognitive function, insulin resistance, blood pressure and oxidative stress.
Researchers studied 90 older adults with mild cognitive impairment and had them drink a chocolatey drink daily for two months, randomly assigning them to three groups that drank cocoa with different concentrations of cocoa flavanols. Flavanols, which are found not only in chocolate, but also in tea, grapes, red wine and apples, have been associated with lowering dementia risk in previous studies.
At the end of the study period the people who drank the most concentrated cocoa had significantly higher scores on tests of cognitive function than did the people in the other two groups, the groups of both high- and medium-flavanol cocoa drinkers showed significant improvement on tests of working memory, verbal memory, and other cognitive abilities. They also showed improvements in insulin resistance, blood pressure and oxidative stress.
Before I go any further I should tell you that the study was sponsored by the Mars company, the maker of Mars bars and various other chocolatey confections, who supplied the cocoa beverages for the study. But the research paper was published in Hypertension, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Heart Association. And if evidence of the brain benefits of chocolate is good enough for the American Heart Association, then gosh darnit it is good enough for me.
This study doesn't offer an explanation as to why consuming cocoa flavanols can improve cognitive function, but it may be that they protect brain neurons from injury, or that flavanols improve cardiovascular health and insulin sensitivity and that those benefits go on to prevent cognitive decline.
But for now, all I need to know about this study is that it's yet another excuse to eat chocolate (which I do almost every day anyway—I'm an addict).
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