Scientists Prove That Age-Related Memory Decline Is Improved By Cocoa Flavanol

Scientists Prove That Age-Related Memory Decline Is Improved By Cocoa Flavanol

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - 2:10pm


As people age, they typically show some decline in cognitive abilities, including learning and remembering things such as the names of new acquaintances, where the car is parked or where are the keys. This normal age-related memory decline starts in early adulthood, but usually does not have any noticeable impact on quality of life until people reach their fifties or sixties. Age-related memory decline is different from the often-devastating memory impairment that occurs with Alzheimer’s. Now a medical study led by Columbia University Medical Centre (CUMC) scientists has found that dietary cocoa flavanols—naturally occurring bioactives found in cocoa—reversed age-related memory decline in healthy older adults.

This significant research is published in the advance online issue of Nature Neuroscience and provides the first direct evidence that one component of age-related memory decline in humans is caused by changes in a specific region of the brain and that this form of memory decline can be improved by a dietary intervention. A cocoa flavanol-containing test drink prepared specifically for the research was produced by the food company Mars, Incorporated, which also partly supported the research, using a proprietary process to extract flavanols from cocoa beans. Most methods of processing cocoa remove many of the flavanols found in the raw plant.

In this particular CUMC study, 37 healthy volunteers, ages 50 to 69, were randomised to receive either a high-flavanol diet (900 mg of flavanols a day) or a low-flavanol diet (10 mg of flavanols a day) for three months. Each participant had brain imaging and memory tests before and after the study. The brain imaging measured blood volume in the dentate gyrus, a measure of metabolism and the memory test involved a 20-minute pattern-recognition exercise designed to evaluate a type of memory controlled by the dentate gyrus.


Photo Credit: Columbia University Medical Centre