New research gives chocoholic seniors new reason to enjoy their guilty pleasure, after scientists found that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day could help sharpen cognitive skills and keep their brains healthy.
For their study, published in the online issue of Neurology this week, researchers from the Harvard Medical School in Boston recruited 60 people with an average age of 73 who did not have dementia.
After putting them on a diet of two cups of hot chocolate a day — supplied by confectionery giant Mars — for 30 days, scientists measured the amount of blood flow to participants’ brains as they undertook memory and cognitive tests.
Healthy blood flow plays an important role in cognitive diseases.
“As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow,” explained lead author Farzaneh Sorond.
“This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”
While there was no measurable difference in blood flow or test results among those with regular blood flow, researchers noted an 8 percent improvement in blood flow among the 18 participants who started the experiment with impaired blood flow.
In addition to improved blood flow to the working areas of the brain, the participants also improved their times on a memory test, dropping from 167 seconds to 116 seconds by the end of the experiment, researchers said.
Study results suggest that different compounds in chocolate could play a role, given that though half the group received a hot chocolate enriched with the antioxidant flavanol, and the other received a flavanol-poor hot cocoa, scientists found no clear difference between the two.
If you are going to reach for a piece of chocolate, a Danish study suggests reaching for the dark kind, as it’s more filling than the sugar-loaded milk variety and lessens cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods.