Health & Medical Neurological Conditions

Special Cocoa Drink May Improve Age-Related Memory Loss

´╗┐Special Cocoa Drink May Improve Age-Related Memory Loss By Alan Mozes

HealthDay Reporter

SUNDAY, Oct. 26, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A lab-created cocoa drink appears to improve normal age-related memory loss, a small study suggests.

After three months of consuming the special cocoa concoction, someone with the typical memory of a 60-year-old improved their memory to that of a 30- or 40-year-old, the researchers reported.

But, these findings don't mean the average person can boost their powers of recall with commercially available chocolate or cocoa products, the researchers cautioned.

And a senior official with the Alzheimer's Association questioned the ultimate significance of the research.

"This is really not about chocolate," said study co-author Dr. Scott Small, director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center with the Taub Institute at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. "And it would be detrimental to one's health to try and run out and get flavanols from chocolate, which exist in chocolate, but in miniscule amounts."

The study authors pointed out that flavanols are found (to varying degrees) in many types of foods, including tea leaves, fruits and vegetables, as well as raw cocoa.

However, the manner in which most consumer chocolate products are produced renders them flavanol-free. The study therefore relied on a process -- developed by the food company Mars Inc. -- that could specifically preserve and isolate the flavanol in powder form, before being mixed into either water or milk for consumption.

The new study included 37 healthy volunteers between the ages of 50 and 69 and placed them on diet enriched with raw cocoa flavanols.

Participants were randomly assigned to receive either a high-flavanol diet (900 milligrams) or low-flavanol (10 milligrams) diet for a period of three months.

Both before and after the study period, each volunteer underwent brain scans, to monitor changes to a specific area of the brain called the dentate gyrus region, an area suspected to be important in age-related memory loss.

Also, all of the volunteers completed a modified version of a well-established 20-minute memory test based on pattern recognition skills. This type of memory is known to be modulated by the dentate gyrus region.

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