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Study: Chocolate improves brain health in the elderly

Elderly people’s brain health can benefit from eating chocolate, according to a new study published in the Neurology journal.

A team of researchers in Boston, Massachusetts, found that older people who had performed poorly on a memory and reasoning test, and were experiencing reduced blood flow to their brains, improved after a month of drinking two cups of cocoa every day.

Earlier studies had suggested that consuming chocolate high in the antioxidant flavanol was associated with better brain and blood vessel functioning, and the Boston team wanted to test this component.

A group of 60 elderly people was assembled and were randomly assigned hot chocolate that was either flavanol-rich or flavanol-poor, to test the impact of flavanol on the subjects’ blood flow and thinking skills. When the subjects were tested at the end of the study on their memory and reasoning, the researchers found to their surprise that the presence of flavanol made little difference to the result – suggesting instead that something else in the chocolate was causing the improvement.

Study leader Dr. Farzaneh A. Sorond, a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said the team plans to identify and test this component in future trials, with a view possibly to developing a pill that could be prescribed for elderly people with cognitive problems.