Reverse Age-Related Memory Decline with Cocoa Flavanols

Did You Know…that a naturally occurring substance in cocoa has been shown to reverse age-related memory decline in healthy older adults?

Age-related memory decline becomes noticeable as we age, particularly into our 50s, 60s, and up.  But this decline may be reversible, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The study shows that cocoa flavanols may be able to reverse age-related memory decline by as much as 30 years!  Who wouldn’t eat some cocoa beans to reclaim their 30-year-old brain?

Improve Your Memory with Flavanols 

Flavanols are antioxidants found in tea, certain fruits and vegetables, and cocoa beans.  They help protect against free radicals that promote oxidative damage—and subsequent aging and disease.  They have also been shown to help prevent blood clots and lower LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream.  Recent research suggests that dietary cocoa flavanols in particular can boost blood flow to and from the brain, thereby improving memory and overall cognitive processing.

Previous studies have linked age-related cognitive decline to changes in a specific area of the brain called the dentate gyrus.  However, that link showed no direct cause-and-effect relationship . Inspired by animal studies indicating that cocoa flavanols could improve memory function in the dentate gyrus, researchers from Columbia University Medical Center set out to establish a direct link between age-related cognitive decline and the dentate gyrus in humans.

They separated 37 healthy participants between the ages of 50 and 69 into two randomized test groups over a three-month period.  Both groups drank a cocoa flavanol-containing drink made from flavanols extracted from cocoa beans.  One group ingested 900 mg of cocoa flavanols each day, and the other ingested just 10 mg of cocoa flavanols each day

Researchers analyzed the effects of cocoa flavanols with two tests given at the start and end of the three months.

 The first test was a brain-imaging test that measured the blood volume in the dentate gyrus (a measure for metabolism)

 The second test was a 20-minute pattern recognition exercise that specifically tested memory function in the dentate gyrus

Participants on a high cocoa flavanol diet showed dramatic improvements in memory function.

Dr. Small, Boris and Rose Katz Professor of Neurology and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in the Taub Institute at CUMC added: “If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months that person on average had the memory of a typical 30- or 40-year-old.”

While the findings are preliminary, larger studies are in the works.  In the meantime, enjoy antioxidant-rich dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 75% or higher… in moderation, of course!