Don’t get too excited just yet.

Whilst research has shown that chocolate can boost memory and blood flow, the quantity of chocolate needed to deliver an effect is vast. You might have an improved memory but it will come at the cost of a much larger waistline.

The research is on going and mainly focuses on a component within the chocolate itself: a chemical known as a flavanol. These are naturally occurring anti-oxidants commonly found in cocoa beans, blueberries, green tea and red wine. In recent years there has been a large amount of controversy surrounding the true functions of flavanols, with many believing that the media has exaggerated them.

Nonetheless, this study aimed at unearthing the truth.

Using a team of thirty-seven volunteers aged between 50 and 69, nineteen of these were given a high flavanol content drink per day, whilst the the other eighteen received a similar drink containing a much lower quantity of flavanols. The study ran for three months, with assessment carried out at both the start and the finish.

Assessment was taken through a memory test and a functional MRI brain scan. The results from these found that patients of the higher flavanol group had a 20% faster blood flow to a section of the hippocampi known as the dentate gyrus. Intriguingly, this region has been linked to age-related memory decline in people.

The memory test also found that the use of flavanols gave the patients enhanced reaction times, allowing their brains to perform as though they were three decades younger.

However, to replicate the quantities of flavanols using chocolate, you would need to eat at least two whole bars of 100g dark chocolate per day. I’m sure there are many who wouldn’t mind this though but, as it is well known, excessive chocolate consumption can lead to many other medical difficulties.

Future work is now looking into the optimal dose of flavanols to administer its beneficial effects, and other healthier forms of flavanol administration are now also being developed for use.

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