Who doesn’t like chocolates? Everybody does. Someone advised lazybones and procrastinators to always put “eat chocolate” on their to-do list each day — so they’ll get at least one thing done.
Understandably, weight watchers feel guilt pangs whenever they nibble a chocolate bar or dig into a cup of chocolate sundae.
The fear is that chocolate is high in calories. But studies suggest that regular consumption of chocolate bars as part of a low-fat diet can actually help lower LDL cholesterol, a.k.a. bad cholesterol, levels.
It’s also been suggested that chocolate helps improve blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Now comes a new study that says a component of chocolate called flavanol can help reverse age-related memory loss for older people. The rejuvenating effect can be traced to increased blood flow in a specific region of the brain, the Guardian newspaper reports, citing a study published in Nature Neuroscience.
In the study, which was partly funded by chocolate maker Mars Inc., specially prepared cocoa drinks were given to 37 adults aged 50-69 daily for three months. For one group, the drink contained large amounts of flavanol, which is found naturally in cocoa, tea and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. For the others, the drink was largely free of the compound.
At the end of the experiment, the high-flavanol group showed significant improvements in their memory, compared with the other group who did not have the compound. Brain scans showed that blood volume in the part of the brain called dentate gyrus had improved for those who consumed the flavanol-enriched drink.
This suggests that memory decline can be reversed by a change in diet, according to the report.
Unfortunately, says the newspaper, most methods of processing cocoa remove large quantities of flavanol. A typical chocolate bar contains about 40 milligrams of the compound, but the special drink used in the trial contained 900 mg.
So don’t be afraid to indulge yourself in that dark, wickedly sweet temptation. OK, just a little, not too much. But as they say, too much chocolate is just about right.
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