Drinking a cup or two of hot cocoa has long been a popular and delicious way to warm up, and now a new study suggests it could also be good for your cognitive health. Researchers from Harvard Medical School found that seniors with low levels of blood flow to their brains who drank two cups of hot cocoa each day performed better on memory tests than before.
The study, which was published in the journal Neurology, focused on the brain health of 60 participants with an average age of 73. Subjects were split into two groups: one that consumed hot cocoa rich in flavanol and another that drank hot chocolate without the compound. After the course of 30 days, researchers determined the 18 participants who had low blood flow to the brain at the beginning of the study saw the greatest benefits. Specifically, they saw an improvement to both blood flow and performance on memory tests. While the findings are good news, researchers say it shouldn't encourage seniors to start stocking up on hot chocolate - at least not yet.
"Before we recommend cocoa, it's important to go back and figure out what's in it that's doing this and make sure it's sustainable," study author Dr. Farzaneh Sorond told HealthDay. "I'd prefer people wait until we figure out how to get the benefit without the calories, sugar and fat that comes in cocoa."
Advantages of eating chocolate
This is not the first time that chocolate has been tied to healthy senior living. A considerable amount of research has suggested that moderate consumption could be particularly helpful when it comes to cardiovascular well-being. Some of the most compelling evidence comes from a 2012 study published by researchers at Monash University in Australia. The study, published on BMJ.com, found that people who were at high risk for developing cardiovascular disease could reduce their chances by consuming dark chocolate each day.
There are a number of theories for why chocolate may be good for heart health, but one of the most widely accepted is the presence of polyphenols. These antioxidants are particularly helpful because they increase the production of nitric oxide, a chemical that is associated with lower blood pressure, according to WebMD.