Further research has been published indicating that drinking cocoa might help to preserve brain function. A recent small US study indicates that consumption of a specially formulated cocoa-based drink, high in flavanols, makes older people slightly faster (but no more accurate) in certain memory tests. The researchers identified significantly increased activity in dentate gyrus (DG) after consuming the drink. The DG is a neuroanatomical region in the hippocampus where functioning often declines with human ageing and is understood to be involved in cognition and memory. The high-flavanol intervention enhanced DG function, as measured by fMRI and by cognitive testing.
As might be expected, an NHS Choices Behind the Headlines critical appraisal has been quick to place this research (interesting though it is) in context and offer a sense of due perspective:
A mug of cocoa is not a cure for memory problems. London: NHS Choices Behind the Headlines, October 27th 2014.
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Brickman, AM. Khan, UA. [and] Provenzano, FA. [et al] (2014). Enhancing dentate gyrus function with dietary flavanols improves cognition in older adults. Nature Neuroscience. October 26th 2014. [Epub ahead of print].. (Click here to view the PubMed abstract).