What Keeps the Brain Young? Chocolate!

Now this is the best thing yet.  We've all heard how exercise and doing crossword puzzles and eating walnuts (or peanuts or whatever nut it was) will keep our brains healthy into old age.  But guess what the experts are saying now?  Chocolate.

How did we get so lucky?  A new study just out says drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day may help older people "keep their brains healthy and their thinking skills sharp," according to a story at newswise.com.

The study looked at 60 people with an average age of 73 who did not have dementia.  The participants drank two cups of hot cocoa per day for 30 days and did not consume any other chocolate during the study, newswise.com reports. Participants were then given tests of memory and thinking skills. They also had ultrasounds tests to measure the amount of blood flow to the brain during the tests.

Blood flow in the brain is very important. Different areas of the brain need more energy to complete tasks and hence, good blood flow.  Decreased, or impaired, blood flow can lead to diabetes and cardiac disease.

Of the 60 participants, 18 had impaired blood flow at the start of the study. "Those people had an 8.3-percent improvement in the blood flow to the working areas of the brain by the end of the study, while there was no improvement for those who started out with regular blood flow," newswise.com notes.

These startling results seem to hold true only for people with impaired blood flow. These study subjects also improved their times on a test of working memory, with scores dropping from 167 seconds at the beginning of the study to 116 seconds at the end. There was no change in times for people with regular blood flow.

“More work is needed to prove a link between cocoa, blood flow problems and cognitive decline,” newswise.com quotes Paul B. Rosenberg, MD, of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study. “But this is an important first step that could guide future studies.”

So drink that cocoa, just in case.

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