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Could You Improve Your Memory with Cocoa Every Day?

Can regular consumption of cocoa flavanols improve your memory? Several studies suggest that it might, while one reader offers a testimonial.

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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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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