Researchers have identified a natural compound in cocoa that can help fight memory decline associated with ageing.
Participants who took a high-cocoa-flavanol drink for three months performed better in memory tests. Intake of the special cocoa drink also boosted function of the dentate gyrus, a brain region that plays a huge role in memory formation.
Flavanols, the antioxidants found in teas, red wine, apples and grapes; have long been known to protect against blood clots and bad cholesterol, according to wisegeek.org. Previous studies suggest that these antioxidants may be promising in the fight against depression and anxiety.
For the new study, researchers from the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) assigned 37 healthy people, aged between 50 and 69, to a diet very high or low in flavanols- 900 mg and 10 mg, respectively.
Researchers used brain imaging to measure blood volume in the dentate gyrus, which is a method normally used to determine metabolism. Participants also gave a 20 minute test specially designed to measure memory skills involved in the dentate gyrus.
At the end of the 90-day study, the high-flavanol-group achieved considerable improvement in both memory and function of the dentate gyrus. Additionally, the high-flavanol diet also boosted cardiovascular health.
"When we imaged our research subjects' brains, we found noticeable improvements in the function of the dentate gyrus in those who consumed the high-cocoa-flavanol drink," lead author Dr Adam M. Brickman, associate professor of neuropsychology at the Taub Institute, said in a news release.
Senior author of the study, Dr Scott A. Small, director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Columbia University, added: "If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months that person on average had the memory of a typical 30- or 40-year-old."
The study reported in Nature Neuroscience comes as a support to a 2007 research published in International Journal of Medical Sciences. Researchers found that flavanols in cocoa improved blood flow in the brain and also improved cognitive health.
Similarly, another study in June has also shown that the lavado cocoa extract can help prevent Alzheimer's disease.