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Chocolate Everyday Keeps Brain Damage Away

Update Date: Aug 07, 2013 04:01 PM EDT

A new study reveals more reason to love chocolate.  Scientists say chocolate can help keep the brain healthy.

New research reveals that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day helps older people keep their brains healthy and their thinking skills sharp.

The study published in the journal Neurology involved 60 people with an average age of 73 who did not have dementia.

Researchers had participants drink two cups of hot cocoa a day for 30 days.  Participants did not consume any other chocolate during the study.  Participants were given memory and thinking tests, and undergone ultrasounds to measure the amount of blood flow to their brains during the tests.

"We're learning more about blood flow in the brain and its effect on thinking skills," study author Farzaneh A. Sorond, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School in Boston and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, said in a news release. "As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow. This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer's."

The findings show that participants who had impaired blood flow at the start of the study had an 8.3 percent improvement in the blood flow to the working areas of the brain by the end of the study. However, researchers noted that there was no improvement for people who started out with regular blood flow.

Participants with impaired blood flow also improved their times on a test of working memory, with scores dropping from 167 seconds at the beginning of the study to 116 seconds at the end.

MRI scans revealed that participants with impaired blood flow were also more likely to have tiny areas of brain damage.

"More work is needed to prove a link between cocoa, blood flow problems and cognitive decline," said Paul B. Rosenberg, MD, of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study. "But this is an important first step that could guide future studies."

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