Cocoa for aging brains?

New research demonstrates that seniors with impaired blood flow showed marked improvements to their thinking after drinking two cups of hot chocolate daily for two months.

Could maintaining a razor-sharp mind depend on liquid chocolate?

Perhaps, say researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. They found that older people with impaired blood flow to their brains demonstrated improvements in their thinking skills after drinking two cups of cocoa every day for a month. The study appears in the journal Neurology and was noted on Reuters.

Previous studies have shown that our brains are more active when they receive an adequate supply of oxygen and sugar from the blood, according to the Neurology article. High pressure and diabetes can slow blood flow to the brain. Studies have linked eating chocolate containing the plant compounds with lower blood pressure and few strokes.

For their research, 60 participants, average age 73, were separated into two groups. One group drank flavanol-rich hot chocolate every day for one month. Members of the other group drank low-flavanol hot chocolate. There was no mention as to whether the drinks were low-marshmallow or high-marshmallow beverages. All participants were told to not eat or drink any other chocolate during the study period.

There were no differences in blood flow or in scores on thinking tests between the two hot chocolate groups at the start of the study or after one month. So, the researchers combined both cocoa groups and compared people with poor blood flow to the brain at the start of the study to those who had adequate blood flow. They found more people with poor blood flow at the start saw their circulation improve by the end, compared to people who had adequate blood flow initially. Also, while those with adequate blood flow didn't see a significant improvement on tests that measured their thinking skills, the 17 people in the impaired flow group did. Among those people, the time it took to connect sequential dots on pieces of paper or recognize certain characters on computer screens dropped from 167 seconds at the start of the study to 116 seconds at the end.

The study's lead author, Farzaneh Sorund, said the results will help focus future research that may discern which component or components of hot chocolate are linked to better thinking skills. (It's probably not the marshmallows.)

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.