It's all in the flavanols — the chemical compounds found in chocolate that have also been associated with other health benefits, such as protection from the flu, lowered stress, improved heart health, protection from the sun's UV rays, and even weight control. And now flavanols have been linked to improved memory.
In a recent study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, more than three dozen participants aged 50 to 69 years old were evaluated by researchers at Columbia University. Half were asked to drink a chocolatey, high-flavanol beverage every day for three months while the other half drank a chocolatey beverage that did not include the flavanol boost. The results? After three months, the participants in the high-flavanol group had better results on their memory tests as well as higher levels of activity in their dentate gyrus, a part of the brain's hippocampus that has been linked with memory.
And it wasn't just a marginal difference in memory. The participants that had been drinking the high-flavanol beverage performed 25 percent better on memory tests compared to the control group.
Break out the chocolate bars, right? Not so fast, said researchers. In order to ingest the same level of flavanols consumed by the study's participants, you would need to eat at least three large chocolate bars a day. And while most of us wouldn't have a problem with that prescription, it would unfortunately be likely to bring on other health consequences as a result. Also, just any old chocolate won't do, as many of the healthiest flavanols are processed out of milk chocolate (and don't even exist in white chocolate).
But if dark chocolate is your indulgence, this might give you one more good reason to take a bite. A daily dose may not be enough to improve your memory, but every little bit helps, right?
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