As reported in Health Day News, a cocoa drink rich in flavanols -- the same antioxidants found in chocolate -- may help people with mild memory problems improve their brain function.
Flavanols are found in tea, grapes, red wine, apples and especially in cocoa plants and are associated with a decreased risk of dementia, Italian researchers said.
Flavanols' ability to help maintain brain function may arise from their ability to protect brain cells, improve brain metabolism and blood flow, which helps preserve memory, the researchers said.
A study was funded by the candy maker, Mars Inc. Researchers assigned 90 elderly patients with mild memory impairment to consume a drink containing either 990 milligrams (mg), 520 mg or 45 mg of cocoa flavanols each day for eight weeks.The researchers assessed participants' brain function with a variety of tests. People consuming the high and intermediate amounts of flavanol showed significant improvement on some of the tests, the study found.
Researchers cautioned that the study was done with lower-calorie, nutritionally balanced drinks not chocolate itself. And they cautioned that a balanced diet was important. Eating too much chocolate can cause you to gain excessive weight and negate the benefits.
While the study found an association between cocoa flavanols and mental function scores, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.