A daily dose of chocolate could help keep dementia and Alzheimer’s at bay, a study suggests.
Researchers found that consuming cocoa every day helped improve mild cognitive impairment – a condition involving memory loss which can progress to dementia or Alzheimer’s – in elderly patients.
For the study, 90 people aged 70 or older diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment were split into three groups of 30 and given either a high, medium or low dose of a cocoa drink daily.
The drink contained flavanols – chemicals associated with a decreased dementia risk which are found in a variety of foods, including cocoa products such as dark chocolate.
The participants’ diet was restricted to eliminate other sources of flavanols, such as tea or red wine.
Their cognitive function was examined using tests of factors including working memory and processing speed.
Researchers found those who drank the high and medium doses daily had significantly better cognitive scores by the end of the eight-week study in a number of categories, including working memory.
Those given the higher doses of the flavanol drink improved far more than those given the lowest dose, the study, published in the journal Hypertension, found.
Insulin resistance and blood pressure also decreased in those drinking high and medium doses of the flavanol drink.
Doctor Giovambattista Desideri of the University of L’Aquila in Italy, lead author of the study, said: ‘This study provides encouraging evidence that consuming cocoa flavanols, as a part of a calorie-controlled and nutritionally-balanced diet, could improve cognitive function.
‘Larger studies are needed to validate the findings, figure out how long the positive effects will last and determine the levels of cocoa flavanols required for benefit.’
Dr Laura Phipps, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: ‘Cocoa-based treatments for brain function would likely have patients queuing out the door, but this small study of flavanols is not yet conclusive.’