Many of us turn to chocolate as a comfort food or for an occasional treat. But you may also have heard that eating chocolate can provide some real health benefits. Chocolate contains compounds that have been shown to be beneficial for heart health, lowering blood pressure, fighting inflammation, and decreasing “bad” cholesterol levels. Now, researchers believe that regular, moderate consumption of chocolate may provide protection against cognitive decline and dementia.
One recent study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, demonstrated that elderly participants who consumed moderate amounts of chocolate on a regular basis over the course of the study period showed a 40% reduced risk of cognitive decline.It should be noted that, in this study, the cognitive benefits of moderate chocolate consumption were present only for participants who limited their daily caffeine intake to 75mg per day, about the equivalent of one espresso.
Researchers believe that micronutrients found in cocoa and chocolate – polyphenols – can protect against the production and buildup of the beta-amyloid proteins that form the plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Additional components found in chocolates such as flavonoids and methylxanthines are believed to have beneficial antioxidant and protective properties which may also contribute to a reduced risk of cognitive decline.
It is believed that further research into the various components of cocoa and chocolates can help clarify the specific benefits conferred by each component, which could lead to the development of new therapies or dietary recommendations.
In the meantime, this study further reinforces the suggestion that healthy dietary and lifestyle choices can contribute to good brain health as we age. And that is sweet news, indeed!