Chocolate may reverse age-related memory loss

A new study suggests that high concentrations of an antioxidant found in chocolate, flavanols, can reverse age-related memory loss in older adults.

The problem: In order to ingest the same amount of flavanols used in the study, you’d need to eat more than 20 chocolate bars a day.

Flavanols are removed from many chocolates by a process called “dutching.”

The study was financed by the chocolate industry, so take it with a grain of cocoa.

chocolateInterestingly, the study found that flavanols did not seem to affect the part of the brain impaired by Alzheimer’s. This backed up the theory that age-related memory loss is something distinctly different from Alzheimer’s.

According to the NYT, even if you ate dark chocolate, which contains a higher concentration of flavanols as compared to regular chocolate, you’d still have to eat 300g of dark chocolate a day, which is equal to seven average sized candy bars.

I know the Ghirardelli chocolate I use for baking is 100g per bar, so you’d still need to eat 3 of those per day, which is quite a lot. Especially when you take into account that you’d be eating 27g of saturated fat, or 129% of your recommended daily maximum.

Another odd thing the study found: exercise didn’t seem to help memory improvement (though they think it’s possible that in older brains you need a larger amount, or more vigorous, exercise in order to produce a memory benefit).

Flavanols apparently keep blood vessels from hardening, and they also play an anti-inflammatory role. Apparently, a number of small studies have linked flavanols to lower risks of heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and diabetes.

Though, you might want to watch the 25 chocolate bar a day diet if you’re worried about diabetes.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • carla874

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  • Drew2u

    Matcha and cocoa pare really well with each other, at least with my palette. I have coconut oil that I use to make my own reese’s peanut butter cups from scratch with and I keep added sugars to a minimum. As it is, if coffee in moderation is good, then a matcha/cocoa flavor packet with a side of blueberries must make for an amaaazing breakfast!

  • 100% cocoa powder is your best bet, assuming it’s not cut with sweeteners. Generally it contains a high percentage of cocoa solids (as much as >90%), which are the part of the chocolate that has the flavonoids. Of course, almost anyone who consumes cocoa usually adds their own fat and sugar to make it palatable, but at least in that case, you can choose how much to add yourself. Not sure about a matcha and cocoa dip, but hey… anything with chocolate is worth a try. :)

  • Drew2u

    I have cocoa powder from my local chocolate shop, how much of these flavornoids are in cocoa powder its self (provided the powder is 100% cocoa and not cut with sweeteners), on top of that, would creating, say, blueberries or citrus dipped in a matcha+cocoa coating be anything useful for those odd cravings?

  • vickif

    Yeah.

  • vickif

    I do eat blueberries and other berries and oranges and I still love my dark chocolate the best.

  • vickif

    I admit it, I’m a chocoholic and dark chocolate is my downfall.

  • dcinsider

    “even if you ate dark chocolate, which contains a higher concentration of flavanols as compared to regular chocolate, you’d still have to eat 300g of dark chocolate a day, which is equal to seven average sized candy bars.”

    And the bad news is . . . ?

  • nkd

    20+ chocolate bars a day? I think that is what’s called win-win.

  • that good benefits especially should know the percentage that can be consumed

  • perljammer

    LOL, I think it would take the edge off of a lot of things, including your ability to keep your stomach contents in your stomach.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    That raises a question. Do I have to stop after 20?

  • nicho

    That is, of course, assuming that you ate anything besides the Hershey bars. I’m thinking that 25 Hershey bars would take the edge off your appetite.

  • Think of it as brown sludge that someone once rolled some chocolate around in.

  • Their study, not unlike the studies from the wine industry making red wine sound like the next big health drink, makes it seem like chocolate is the only possible source of flavonoids people should want to consume. When in actuality they can come from many much healthier sources, such as blueberries, tea, even citrus. Eat chocolate because you like it. You’re deluding yourself if you think consuming even more sugar and fat will result in any notable net health benefit.

  • nicho

    And there’s that too.

  • Milk chocolate only contains a tiny fraction of the flavonoids that dark chocolate does, so you’d already have to consume exponentially more to get the same benefit. And in the case of most US-processed milk chocolate, nearly triple the sugar and fat. Plus, milk is believed to interfere with the absorption of flavonoids… so there really is no reasonable way to get notable health benefits from eating milk processed chocolate, aside from the joy of stuffing your face full of chocolate.

  • A_nonymoose

    In order to ingest the same amount of flavanols used in the study, you’d need to eat more than 20 chocolate bars a day.
    I fail to see the problem. ;)

  • sonoitabear

    Hershey bars are not chocolate…

  • nicho

    Hershey bars will kill you. Loaded with sugar, which counteracts all the benefits of the chocolate.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    True, but so is coffee.

  • S1AMER

    Sounds great — and even if this turns out wrong, you’ve still had the pleasure of yummy chocolate to help you forget the agony of forgetting stuff. (And you might even forget how much less you weighed before you started eating all the chocolate!)

  • perljammer

    It’s not, unless you consider gaining 500 to 1000 lbs/year a downside.

  • perljammer

    A Hershey bar is 210 calories. Seven of them would be 1470 calories per day. 1470 calories per day on top of a neutral-weight-gain diet would result in a weight gain of 3 to 6 pounds per week, or 150 to 300 pounds per year. On the bright side, your memory would be fine right up until the massive coronary that kills you.

  • nicho

    Chocolate is a Vegetable: chocolate is derived from cocoa beans. Bean = vegetable. Sugar is derived from either sugar cane or sugar beets. Both are plants, which places them in the vegetable category. Thus, chocolate is a vegetable. To go one step further, chocolate candy bars also contain milk, which is dairy. So candy bars are a health food.

  • nicho

    So, only two more chocolate bars a day and I’m good.

  • Indigo

    Chocolate is an important food group.

  • How is having to eat 25 chocolate bars a day a “downside”?

  • mononucleosis

    Other than a possible weight issue, I don’t see any downside.
    I’d rather be obese with a fit mind than skinny and demented.

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