Would you like to be able to improve your memory, or at least keep it from deteriorating? Many readers would. One wrote to tell us about a possible intervention that is inexpensive and easy:

Can Cocoa Improve Your Memory?

Q. I have written before about how I take cocoa to get the benefits without extra calories. I take about a tablespoon every morning, in coffee, in oatmeal, any way I can with a bit of sweetener and skim milk.

I have noticed that my memory is better than it was years ago. I attribute that to the cocoa and thank you for writing about it.

I am asking today about dementia. It ran in my mother’s family. Both my mother and my aunt had it in their last decade.

I am 78 and so far, so good. I live alone and manage my property, mowing pastures for my 36-year-old horse and caring for my dogs and cats in addition to paying bills and keeping the house in good repair.

I drive alone to a family reunion every year. This year I have noticed a slight decline in my cousin (my mother’s sister’s daughter).

Can cocoa or dark chocolate slow dementia? Since my memory improved, I wonder if that had any thing to do with my good brain function. I have been taking cocoa for about six years, and I’ve definitely noticed an improvement in my memory from my younger years. If there is a connection, I am surely not the first to notice an improvement.

Studies on Cocoa and Memory:

A. You might not be the first to notice an improvement, but scientists are currently trying to find out if the connection is real.

One study of more than 500 people over 65 years old lasted two years and found that those who reported regular chocolate consumption at the start of the study were about 40 percent less likely to have a decline in their cognitive function scores at the end of it (Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, May, 2016).

The Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study of 968 individuals also found that people who ate chocolate more frequently performed better on a battery of cognitive function tests (Appetite, May, 2016).  This same study showed that the chocolate-lovers were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes (Appetite, online Oct. 8, 2016).

The COSMOS Trial is ongoing. It is designed to discover whether multivitamins and cocoa flavanols can reduce the chance of experiencing heart attacks, strokes or cancer.  A subsection of the trial is also looking at cognitive function to see whether cocoa can help ward off cognitive decline.

We Conclude in Favor of Cocoa:

We can’t conclude that chocolate will improve your memory, but we do believe it is reasonably safe to eat chocolate, or in your case to consume cocoa. We don’t know if your cousin will improve if she adopts your cocoa consumption habit, but it might be worth a try.

We have written about using cocoa to lower cholesterol. You may also be interested in our one-hour radio show on the health benefits of chocolate, Show 939.

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  1. God blessential you

    God bleas you!

  2. Barbara

    PS: The trait of a placebo effect is that it usually quickly stops working because it never worked in the first place. It was wishful thinking.

  3. Barbara

    How could anyone believe cocoa can improve memory? The toxins in cocoa are what one really gets. Look at the reports of heavy metals in cocoa. I wouldn’t touch it.
    Most of these bizarre ideas about magical benefits for no sound reason are placebo.
    How about spitting three times in a frog’s mouth during a full moon to cure arthritis? Tell it to enough people and someone will try it and tell you it cures arthritis, gout, headaches, and chilblains. LOL!


  4. David Haddon
    Redding, CA

    Why not cut out the middleman and use cacao instead of the further processed cacao product called cocoa? I drink a large cup of cacao made with a heaping teaspoon of cacao and a rounded teaspoon of xylitol as sweetener. Sometimes I add a rounded teaspoon or two of NINF milk powder for a smoother hot chocolate drink. The San Blas Indians of Panama are said to be free from heart disease and drink about six cups of cacao per day. Of course, they are also only about 5 feet tall, for whatever reason.


    I put cocoa powder (Hershey’s Special Dark) in my bowl of oatmeal every morning. I call it my “mud oatmeal.” It’s delicious along with the blueberries, milled flax seed, cinnamon, protein powder, almond milk, and walnuts I add. I’m 73 and look 10 years younger, have no aches or pains, and still work as a CPA full time.

  6. Dot

    Re. cocoa to help memory: Is this straight cocoa in hot water….or in the packets to mix with hot water…not quite clear on this.

  7. Carla

    It would be most helpful to know if the gentleman who shared his experience with cocoa improving his memory has been taking ordinary unsweetened cocoa purchased at the grocery store, such as Hershey’s, or the VERY expensive Cocoa Via product sold online by the MARS candy manufacturer. It would also be nice if the People’s Pharmacy could tell us whether cocoa supplements in capsule form are as effective as cocoa powder. A note: I have never seen one of my comments appear on this site, so it will be interesting to see if this one ever does.

  8. Herb

    I would be very careful about consuming chocolate every day.

    Several recent high-quality studies have shown that consuming chocolate several times a week significantly reduced the incidence of heart failure, but consuming it every day substantially increased risk of heart failure.

  9. RD

    I love a hot cocoa in the morning, 1 tablespoon into hot water and some heavy cream, no sugar. However, if I consume daily, after about a week I notice my sleep becomes more interrupted. How can a cup of cocoa at 5AM affect my sleep later that night? Cocoa has low caffeine but has high amounts of another milder stimulant theobromine which has a half-life of 12 hours or so. My theory is that the long half-life of theobromine allows it to build up to a steady state in my body, enough to disrupt sleep. After stopping cocoa for a few days, sleep improves. Just posting this in case anyone else has noticed this effect.

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