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Besides the pleasant flavour and comforting feeling you get from sipping on hot chocolate, this popular beverage has several other benefits, chief among them the positive effect it has on your brain.
According to a study by Harvard Medical School, taking two or more cups of cocoa a day can improve your memory and prevent mental decline among older people.
The Study and Results
Participants in the research, which used 60 subjects, were given two cups of cocoa every day for 30 consecutive days. The 70-something-year-olds were instructed not to take any other chocolate products for the duration of the experiment.
The research was preceded by an MRI evaluation and other mental tests to measure neurovascular coupling (the relationship between blood flow and neural activity) in the brain. By the end of the study, most of the subjects were found to have improved neurovascular coupling. Only five participants showed any mental impairment.
Besides improved blood flow to the brain, there was also a marked improvement in memory retention among the participants. This was proved by the fact that the average time to complete a memory test reduced by 30%.
Effect of Chocolate on Alzheimer’s Disease
A different study found an additional benefit of chocolate to the brain. Apparently, a specially prepared cocoa-extract called Lavado helps to fight Alzheimer’s disease actively. According to a study conducted by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (JAD), “Lavado may reduce damage to nerve pathways seen in Alzheimer’s disease patients’ brains long before they develop symptoms.”
The study used genetically engineered lab mice to mimic Alzheimer’s disease, and out of the three different cocoa extracts that were tested on the mice, Lavado was found to have the greatest impact in countering the disease’s effects thanks to the polyphenol compounds it contains.
Other Benefits of Hot Chocolate
Apart from improving memory and fighting Alzheimer’s as proven by the two studies, consumption of cocoa and dark chocolate comes with other significant health benefits. Dark chocolate has been shown to improve cardiovascular function and to keep the twin problems of diabetes and obesity at bay.
However, for the chocolate consumer to realise the full benefits of cocoa, they must use organic dark chocolate cocoa as opposed to “Dutch” – or wholly processed – cocoa extract.