Ice-cream and chocolate are perhaps the best food ever invented by humankind. Kids before the age of one to 99-year-old women and men love these food. But we’ve been told horror stories about these food, especially chocolate. But now there’s a reason to love chocolate, and eat them in huge quantity, sort of. Apparently, a new study suggests that a natural compound found in cocoa can reverse age-related memory loss.
Published by Nature Neuroscience (partly financed by chocolate company), the magic particles can be found not only in cocoa, but also tea and some vegetables. The compound is called “flavanols”, and the research suggests it increases connectivity, and subsequently, blood flow in a region of the brain critical to memory. Think of this “flavanols” as Viagra for men who need the magic tablets to boost their manhood (*grin*).
In a nutshell, flavanols was found to reverse mild memory loss in older adults. However, this is not related to severe memory loss and cell death as in Alzheimer’s disease though. For Alzheimer disease, the simplest solution is to play Chinese Mahjong, provided you believe in such theory suggested by mahjong fanatics (*tongue-in-cheek*). It was said that since you need to remember tiles – 148 of them – on mahjong table, you would be forced to “stimulate” your memory cells.
According to the Nature Neuroscience’s study, flavanols extracted from cocoa beans had improved neuronal connections in mice’s dentate gyrus, a part of the brain involved in memory formation. Memory deteriorates with age because of changes in the dentate gyrus, a region of the hippocampus. And aging appears to reduce the synapses, or connections, between neurons in that part of the brain.
The study involved 37 healthy subjects whose age ranged from 50 to 69. Randomly, they were given either a high-flavanol diet (consuming 900 milligrams a day) or a low flavanol diet (consuming 10mg per day). Brain scans, which measure blood volume in the dentate gyrus, and memory tests were used to evaluate the effect of the diet. Nature Neuroscience claims test subject who had memory of a typical 60-year-old (at the beginning of the study), would have memory functionality of a 30-to-40-year-old person – after 3-months.
Here’s the catch – a typical chocolate bar contains about 40mg of flavanols only. Hence, for intake of 900mg, a person needs to gorge more than 20 chocolate bars. Obviously, you don’t want to become a glutton with tons of other new diseases just for the sake of having better memory, do you? Fortunately, the study also offers another evidence – diet and healthy lifestyle increase blood flow to the brain, which in turns can slow or even reverse age-related memory loss.
Perhaps, chocolate maker such as Mars, Nestlé, Ferrero Group, Hershey and others should stop removing flavanols found in cocoa (during processing) and find ways to increase this beneficial component into chocolate bars or drinks? There’s another challenge though – there’s not enough chocolate in the world anymore, cocoa trees in Africa have been increasingly unproductive in recent years.
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