Compounds found in cocoa beans, which are used to make chocolate, may reverse the normal age-related memory decline seen in older adults, researchers say.
In a new study, people who were randomly assigned to eat a diet high in these compounds, called flavanols, for three months performed significantly better on a memory test than people assigned to eat a diet low in flavanols.
Additionally, brain imaging of the participants who consumed the high amounts of flavanols revealed noticeable improvements in the function of a region called the dentate gyrus, which is thought to be involved in memory.
If further studies the new findings, researchers could one day produce an off-the-shelf of cocoa flavanols aimed at improving people's mental function, said study author Scott Small, a neurologist at Columbia University in New York.
Flavanols are naturally found not just in cocoa beans, but in tea leaves and in certain fruits and vegetables well. However, the overall amounts of flavanols they possess, as well as their specific forms and mixtures, vary widely.
A recent study in mice found that flavanols increased the number of connections among neurons in the dentate gyrus.
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