With age comes a great deal of wisdom yet it does come with the unfortunate side effects of decreased memory function. This memory decline due to getting older is linked to the dentate gyrus region of the hippocampus. This part of the brain has been implicated in previous studies dealing with memory but the researchers in this study found that by increasing dietary cocoa flavanols it can actually improve brain function in this region and better memory function.

Flavanols are the chemicals found in raw, unprocessed cocoa beans as well as other plant material. Flavanol, from previous research, has seen to act on the dentate gyrus, which can boost the number of neuronal connections and finally function.

The small study, published in Nature Neuroscience, used 37 healthy participants whom ranged in age between 50 to 69 years. Over three months the participants in one group drank a specially formulated beverage with high amounts of flavanol at around 900mg a day. The other group only consumed a low-flavanol drink a day with 10mg in it. Every single participant underwent a pattern-recognition memory test and brain imaging before and after the three months.

“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,” says Adam Brickman of Columbia University’s Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain, the lead author on the paper.

Memory tests also improved amongst the participants who consumed larger amounts of dietary flavanol. Their memory was seen to improve vastly and now had the working memory of someone decades younger than themselves. The study was done on a small scale and now the researchers want to go bigger to fully understand the relationship between flavanols, the hippocampus and memory.

This study though does not govern that people go out and consume huge amounts of chocolate. Even though dark chocolates comprise of cocoa from anywhere between 45 to 80 percent, the average chocolate bar (not dark) has only 5 to 7 percent and consists of added sugar and fat which may negate the effects and benefits that comes from the cocoa.

Watch the video below to see how cocoa flavanols could help reverse age-related memory decline.

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