If you find comfort in munching on chocolate, you may also be comforted in knowing that chocolate can help maintain your brain function as you get older. Research at the University of L’Aquila in Italy shows that natural chemicals in cocoa called flavanols can slow the development of a condition called “mild cognitive impairment” in seniors.
Mild cognitive impairment is a gradual memory loss that, in the long run, is anything but mild. It can eventually lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Flavanols — also found in tea, grapes, red wine and apples — are believed to help protect the brain’s neurons from injury, improve metabolism and boost brain blood flow.
“This study provides encouraging evidence that consuming cocoa flavanols, as a part of a calorie-controlled and nutritionally-balanced diet, could improve cognitive function,” says researcher Giovambattista Desideri. “The positive effect on cognitive function may be mainly mediated by an improvement in insulin sensitivity. It is yet unclear whether these benefits in cognition are a direct consequence of cocoa flavanols or a secondary effect of general improvements in cardiovascular function.”