A small study published in Nature Neuroscience from a group at Columbia University showed that 50-70 year olds who consumed a high cocoa-based Flavanol diet for three-month had a considerable improvement in memory. But just what are flavanols and why should you care? Flavanols are a diverse set of compounds found in fruits and vegetables and can be found in plants like green tea (camellia sinensis) and cocoa (theobroma cacao). It is unclear how flavanols work to improve memory, but it seems increasing blood flow and/or improving vascular health is part the mechanism. However, eating a bar of chocolate won’t give you the same kind of benefit as seen in the study. Participants in this study were taking a special supplement high in flavanols at concentration hundreds, if not thousands, of times higher than what you might find in a bar of chocolate.
Don’t get too excited about the findings just yet. The study was sponsored by Mars Inc. one of the largest chocolate makers in the world and was fairly small. They need to confirm the findings in a larger group. In the meantime, you can drink a some green tea (high in flavanols), exercise daily (this increases blood flow) or chew you Think Gum daily (both the act of chewing gum and many of the supplements within Think Gum have been shown to improve blood flow to the brain).