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Flavanols in Chocolate May Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer's

More and more studies are showing that chocolate eaten in moderation may have significant health benefits. Most recently, researchers have found that antioxidants in chocolate known as flavanols may help improve mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which can progress to dementia and eventually Alzheimer's disease.

The study included 90 mature adults who had been diagnosed with MCI. Over the course of 8 weeks, the participants consumed one of three dairy-based cocoa flavanol drinks. The high flavanol group drank 990 milligrams, the intermediate group drank 520 mg, and the low group drank 45 mg. They were instructed to avoid any other foods and drinks with flavanols during the study period.

The researchers administered neuro-psychological tests to measure different types of brain functioning. They found that participants in the high and intermediate groups scored significantly higher for motor responses, task-switching, and verbal and working memory. They also had higher overall cognitive functioning.

Blood pressure and oxidative stress also decreased in the high and intermediate groups.

The research was conducted at the University of L'Aquila in Italy. It was published online ahead of print on August 14, 2012, in the journal Hypertension.

Chocolate isn’t just good for brain health. It has also been shown to improve heart health and insulin resistance, and reduce blood pressure. To get the full health benefits of chocolate, consume darker chocolates which contain more flavanols.

It’s important to keep in mind that excessive consumption of chocolate could negate the positive effects seen here and in other studies, as chocolate also has high fat, sugar, and calorie content. Your best bet is to eat small amounts of dark chocolate with high cocoa content.

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