A clinical trial backed by chocolate-maker Mars reports that older adults with mild cognitive impairment boosted scores on some mental tests when they consumed more cocoa flavanols.  Flavanols are antioxidant compounds that are attributed to health benefits found in dark chocolate.

The study, conducted at the University of L’Aquila in Italy tested three levels of cocoa flavanols in dairy-based beverages over a period of eight weeks.  Study author Giovambattista Desideri, PhD said, “for the first time, regular cocoa flavanol consumption has shown to positively affect cognitive function in older adults with early memory decline.  Importantly, the improvements in cognitive function were seen over a relatively short period of time, and while further research is required to confirm and expand on these findings, this provides encouraging evidence that regular consumption of cocoa flavanols might be effective in improving cognitive function in elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment.”

Special high-flavanol beverages supplied by Mars were used – not ordinary Swiss Miss hot cocoa packets found at the grocery store. While all chocolate is made from cocoa beans, typical handling and processing can destroy the natural flavanol compounds in the beans. “This is a study about the proof of principle that cocoa flavanols can have an effect on cognitive performance in people with mild cognitive impairment – not a suggestion about eating a lot of dark chocolate or a specially formulated chocolate product,” said Jeffrey B.Blumberg, PhD, director of the Tufts’ HNRCA Antioxidants Research Laboratory.  Tufts Health Letter  11/3/12

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