Chocolate seems to help keep human brains in shape as they age according to some very good news published in the journal Neurology. A group of sixty willing participants, aged 67-78, drank cocoa every day for thirty days. Scientists measured their cognitive abilities each day before and after the cup of cocoa, and examined blood flow to the brain as well as white matter recovery (“white matter” refers to the brain’s infrastructure cells, which consist mostly of glial cells).
The cocoa cups were divided into flavanol-rich and flavanol-poor groups, and participants unknowingly drank the same kind each day. Flavonols are a compound in chocolate, wine and berries that have been identified as a potential source of the benefits derived from those foods. However, there was no significant difference between the two groups, and no overall cognitive improvement was shown in either.
HOWEVER (I’m a chocolate lover, so we’re going all-caps), people that came into the study with low blood flow to brain levels saw that metric improve substantially, by 8%, after 30 days of cocoa. The effects that this had on this group’s mental abilities were dramatic: the time they took to complete a working memory task dropped from 167 seconds to 116 seconds.
Sadly, this doesn’t mean it is time to scarf down chocolate with every meal, but some dark chocolate now and again appears to help brains recover. Why that happens is still being figured out, but we can say with some certainty that chocolate is good for you.