Having two cups of hot chocolate a day may help older folks keeping their brain functions healthy and thinking sharp, according to a study published in August 7, 2013.
The study had a group of 60 people with an average age of 73, without dementia. Two cups of hot cocoa were drunken every day for 30 days and no other chocolate was consumed during the test. Memory tests and thinking skills were used to test, and ultrasounds tests to record the amount of blood flowing to the brain during the tests.
“We’re learning more about blood flow in the brain and its effect on thinking skills,” said study author Farzaneh A. Sorond, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School in Boston and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow. This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”
Out of the 60 participants, 18 had issue with blood flow in the beginning of the study. These people had an 8.3% improvement in blood flow to the working sectors of the brain by the end. There was no improvement for those who had regular blood flow from the start of the tests.
Those with the impaired blood flow also had improved times on a working memory test, with times dropping from 167 seconds in the beginning, to 116 seconds at the end. No difference in times for those who had regular blood flow.
24 of the people also had MRI scans of the brain to look for any brain damage. The scans showed that people with irregular blood flow were more likely to have the same brain damage in those areas.
50% of the participants drunk hot cocoa that was high in the antioxidant, flavanol, while the other 50% drunk hot cocoa poor in flavanol. There was no differences in results.
“More work is needed to prove a link between cocoa, blood flow problems and cognitive decline,” said Paul B. Rosenberg, MD, of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study. “But this is an important first step that could guide future studies.”
This study was conducted by the National Institute on Aging and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Cocoa was provided by Mars Inc.
- F. A. Sorond et al., Neurovascular coupling, cerebral white matter integrity, and response to cocoa in older people, Neurology, 2013; DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182a351aa