Cocoa could be the answer to lowering the risk of dementia, new research has found. A study on 37 people aged 50 to 69 looked into cognitive performance and brain function and how antioxidants in cocoa, called dietary cocoa flavanols, affects memory. Participants were given either a low or high dose of the flavanols over a three month period, and results found those who had more were faster to respond in a delayed-recognition memory task. This discovery was put down to cocoa helping increase blood flow to a part of the brain which deals with memory.
'The antioxidants found in cocoa can improve cognitive performance'
The experiment was conducted by Columbia University Medical Centre, and findings were published by the journal Nature Neuroscience. Overall the study points towards a link between a specific brain region and normal memory decline.
"This well-designed but small study suggests the antioxidants found in cocoa can improve cognitive performance by improving blood flow to a certain region of the brain," Dr Clare Walton, research manager at the Alzheimer's Society, noted.
"The brain region is known to be affected in ageing, but as yet we don't know whether these brain changes are involved in dementia.
"However, the jury is still out as to whether partaking in things high in antioxidants can improve your memory or reduce your risk of dementia."
Columbia University Medical Centre claims the study provided direct evidence of how age-related memory decline in humans is caused by a specific part of the brain and that dietary intervention could improve the circumstances.
Cocoa isn't the only food known to help with cognitive function. Fish - particularly tuna, mackerel and salmon - is rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These help the function of neurons.
Another option is avocado which is full of vitamin E and C and is known to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's.
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