A chocolate fountain of youth?

New research suggests a flavonol in chocolate may help boost age-related memory loss. 

Can chocolate help you remember where you parked your car?

New research suggests that an antioxidant in chocolate may help boost the memory skills that seem to melt in middle age like a Hershey bar in July.

After three months, subjects in a study (ages 50-69) who drank a mixture high in an antioxidant found in chocolate called epicatechin performed like people two to three decades younger on the study’s memory task, according to the study’s senior author, Dr. Scott A. Small, a neurologist at Columbia University Medical Center. Small spoke with the New York Times about his study, which appeared in the journal Nature Neuroscience. Study subjects who drank a high-flavanol mixture performed about 25 percent better than the low-flavanol group.

“Boy, this is really interesting to see it in three months,” said Dr. Steven DeKosky, a neurologist and visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh told the Times. “They got this really remarkable increase in a place in the brain that we know is related to age-related memory change.”

The findings are the latest research linking flavanols to improved blood circulation, heart health and memory in mice, snail and humans. How do they work? Researchers are not certain but some believe they improve brain blood flow, others that they cause dendrites, the message-receiving branches of neurons, to grow.

Researchers found improvement in the type of memory used in remembering where you parked the car or recalling the face of someone you just met. They also found increased function in a part of the brain linked to this kind of memory.

So is the study the justification you’ve been looking for to buy that big bag of miniature chocolate bars even though you haven’t had a trick-or-treater at your house since the first “Scream” movie came out?
Probably not.

To get the same amount of flavanol that the study group did, 138 milligrams, would take eating at least 300 grams of dark chocolate a day — about seven average-sized bars, or 28 minis. And they’d have to be dark chocolate, as milk chocolate has most of the epicatechin processed out of it. 

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