Eating dark chocolate every day may improve thinking abilities in people with mild cognitive impairment, according to a new study.
Researchers enlisted older adults to consume either low, moderate or high amounts of flavanols in a cocoa-based beverage every day for eight weeks, and a link was found between the higher amounts of flavanols and improvements in tests of cognitive function.
The higher the concentration of flavanols, the better the people did on the tests — completing them more quickly and recalling more information, the researchers found.
The study was funded by Mars, a company that makes chocolate candy.
All study participants had mild cognitive impairment, a condition in which people have problems with memory or thinking that go beyond the normal age-related decline but don't interfere with their daily activities. The condition can lead to Alzheimer's disease.
Previous research has shown that flavanols have other health benefits, including improving blood pressure and insulin resistance.
"It is yet unclear whether these benefits in cognition are a direct consequence of cocoa flavanols or a secondary effect of general improvements in cardiovascular function," said lead study author Dr. Giovambattista Desideri, director of the geriatric division at the University of L'Aquila in Italy.
For example, the improvements to the cardiovascular system may increase blood flow in the brain, leading to mental improvements, the researchers said.
The study was published Aug. 13 in the journal Hypertension