Hot chocolate for sharp thinking

Hot chocolate helps seniors maintain good thinking abilities, says new study

Cup of steaming hot chocolateDrinking two cups of hot chocolate a day plays a part in helping the elderly keep their thinking abilities sharp. That's the finding of a study by scientists at Harvard Medical School in Boston published online in the journal Neurology.

The team led by Farzaneh A. Sorond, MD, PhD studied 60 men and women aged around 73 who did not have dementia. They used to drink two cups of hot chocolate everyday for 30 days. No other chocolate was allowed during that period. They underwent memory tests and thinking-ability tests. Also, blood flow to the brain while undergoing the tests was measured using ultrasound.

"We're learning more about blood flow in the brain and its effect on thinking skills. As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow. This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer's", says the lead author Dr Farzaneh.

At the start of the study, 18 out of the 60 participants had impaired blood flow. There was 8.3 per cent improvement in the blood flow and significantly better performance in memory tests [116 seconds vs. 167 seconds to remember the same thing] after the participants had consumed the drink.

There was no improvement for those without impaired blood flows. Also, the team tried to check if the anti-oxidant flavonol was the factor helping the improvement. Half the participants drank flavonol-rich cocoa, whereas the other half used flavonol-poor cocoa. But that did not make a difference in this study.

"More work is needed to prove a link between cocoa, blood flow problems and cognitive decline," said Paul B. Rosenberg, MD, of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study. "But this is an important first step that could guide future studies."

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