Chocolate could help stave off dementia by increasing blood flow to a part of the brain that helps with memory, suggests new research.
The study found that a key ingredient in chocolate may even reverse age-related memory decline in healthy older people.
The research showed antioxidants in cocoa – called dietary cocoa flavanols – helped improve the memory of pensioners.
The findings, published online by the journal Nature Neuroscience, strengthen the link between a specific brain region and normal memory decline.
Researchers examined whether cocoa flavanols would enhance brain function and cognitive performance in 37 people, aged 50 to 69, who were given either a high or a low dose of cocoa flavanols for three months.
‘The brain region is known to be affected in ageing, but as yet we don’t know whether these brain changes are involved in dementia.
‘With the winter nights setting in, many of us will be settling down with a nice hot cup of cocoa at the end of our day.
‘However, the jury is still out as to whether partaking in things high in antioxidants can improve your memory or reduce your risk of dementia.’
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Centre in the United States, who conducted the study, said it provides the first direct evidence that one component of age-related memory decline in humans is caused by changes in a specific region of the brain and that this form of memory decline can be improved by a dietary intervention.