Maybe chocolate therapy really is a thing. A recent study detailing chocolate’s potential health benefits has been added to the canon of studies revealing potential health benefits of chocolate. The most recent study analyzed the potential benefits that chocolate may provide in keeping older adults’ brains healthy.

In the most recent study, published in the August edition of Neurology, researchers asked 60 adults with an average age of 73 to drink two cups of hot cocoa each day for 30 days. Participants’ blood flow to the brain was measured, along with thinking and memory skills. In the end, the 18 patients who had impaired blood flow, which is associated with cognitive decline, saw an 8.3 percent increase in blood flow to the brain by the end of the study. Additionally, they improved their average time on the memory and cognition test from an average of 167 seconds down to an average of 116 seconds.

More research needs to be done, but the study’s authors assert this is a start to understanding cocoa’s link to blood flow and improving memory or decreasing cognitive decline.

Other possible benefits of chocolate
According to Dr. Karin Ried, director of research for Australia’s National Institute of Integrative Medicine and a self-proclaimed chocolate researcher, the most beneficial chocolate is 50 to 85 percent dark chocolate because it contains less sugar and more cocoa flavonoids which have been shown to reduce blood pressure in small amounts. Reducing blood pressure even a little can improve cardiovascular health.

However, if someone doesn’t enjoy chocolate or is wary about eating too much due to high fat content, dietary flavonoids can also be found in red wine, green tea and berries.

Additionally, in a September 2010 study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, a questionnaire of nearly 5,000 adults of all ages revealed that chocolate intake was inversely related to the risk of coronary heart disease, while those consuming non-chocolate candies had a higher prevalence of coronary heart disease.

Finally, a study published in the October 2011 edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology by researchers at the Karolinska Institute found a lower stroke risk among women who had consumed greater amounts of chocolate. A similar study from Sweden of a group of more than 37,000 men came to the same conclusion: Those who consumed more chocolate than others over a period of ten years had an decreased risk of stroke.

Interpreting the research
While the research is promising for chocolate lovers everywhere, it should not be taken as a mandate to change ones diet or consume copious amounts of chocolate – something that could actually cause more harm than good. It’s important to talk to your doctor before changing your diet, especially if you have diabetes or another condition. Still, the studies should ease people’s minds that enjoying the occasional slice of rich chocolate cake or getting your daily dose of dark chocolate is not a bad thing and could possibly have health benefits if you are a lover of chocolate.

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