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Could Chocolate's Antioxidants Boost Brain Function?
Date:8/13/2012

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Aug. 13 (HealthDay News) -- A cocoa drink rich in flavanols -- the same antioxidants found in chocolate -- may help people with mild memory problems improve their brain function, according to Italian researchers.

Flavanols are found in tea, grapes, red wine, apples and especially in cocoa plants and are associated with a decreased risk of dementia, the researchers said.

"The prevention of dementia has to be started early in the life through a healthy lifestyle including adequate cardiovascular risk-factor control, regular physical activity, weight control and a calorie-controlled and nutritionally balanced diet," said lead researcher Dr. Giovambattista Desideri, director of the geriatric division in the department of life, health and environmental sciences at the University of L'Aquila.

"In this context, regular cocoa flavanol consumption seems to represent an effective strategy in preserving brain and cardiovascular health and function," he said.

Flavanols' ability to help maintain brain function may arise from their ability to protect brain cells, improve brain metabolism and blood flow, which helps preserve memory, the researchers said.

The report was published online Aug. 13 in Hypertension.

For the study, funded by the candy maker, Mars Inc., the researchers assigned 90 elderly patients with mild memory impairment to consume a drink containing either 990 milligrams (mg), 520 mg or 45 mg of cocoa flavanols each day for eight weeks.

The researchers assessed participants' brain function with a variety of tests.

People consuming the high and intermediate amounts of flavanol showed significant improvement on some of the tests, the study found. They scored better on measures including hand-eye coordination, working and verbal memory, and verbal fluency than those in the low-flavanol group.

About 40 percent of the improved
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