Chocolate for Helping Memory

Memory symptoms and heart health were better after drinking flavanols from chocolate

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Flavanols are found in red wine, coffee, tea and chocolate. Who would have thought these treats could have a positive affect on brain function and heart health.

A recent study looked at doses of cocoa flavanols in people with mild cognitive impairment. They found that some people had better scores on mental tests after taking high doses for eight weeks.

Which suggests - eating foods and consuming drinks with flavanols might help improve memory.

"Ask your doctor about ways to improve your diet."

The study, led by Giovambattista Desideri, MD, from the Department of Clinical Medicine at the University of L’Aquila, in Italy, asked 90 elderly people with mild cognitive impairment to drink different doses of flavanol.

They used cocoa flavanols, those found in chocolate. People in the study drank a flavanol drink once a day for eight weeks.

Some of the participants had a high dose of flavanol in their drink (990 mg), some had a middle dose (520 mg), and the rest got a low dose (45mg).

At the end of eight weeks, the people in the study had tests for memory, cognitive function, and verbal skills.

They found that people in the high and middle dose groups did better on tests for processing speed and verbal skills. Meaning, they showed better memory for words and were better able to do a quick mental task.

The different doses did not change scores on the Mini Mental State Exam, which is a diagnostic tool for cognitive impairment. Flavanols did not create changes in memory big enough to change a person’s diagnosis.

Researchers also found that people taking the high and middle doses had better insulin function and blood pressure.

The authors concluded that a diet rich in flavanols may be a helpful and low cost addition to treatment of cognitive impairment.

The study did not look at longer-term outcomes, so it is not clear if these effects are long lasting.

The study authors also noted that it is unclear if the better memory was because of improved heart and insulin function or a direct effect of the flavanols.

Chocolate is rich in flavanols, especially in raw forms like cocoa powder. However, some ways that cocoa is processed can lower the amount of flavanols in the chocolate.

Because chocolate can be high in fat and sugar, it can have unwanted effects on body weight and heart health. Adding chocolate to your diet to increase flavanols should be done carefully.

The study was published August 13 in the journal Hypertension. The study was funded by Mars, Inc. One of the authors on the study is employed by Mars, Inc.

Mars, Inc. is maker of a high flavanol chocolate product called CocoaVia.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 10, 2012
Last Updated:
May 17, 2013