According to a new study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, yes! But don’t go buying chocolate bars for your grandma just yet. According to the study it is compounds known as flavanols, found in cocoa solids, which are responsible for the health benefits seen in the study.
Flavanol is a naturally occurring antioxidant which helps to reduce the effect of dangerous oxidants by binding with with these harmful compounds, decreasing their destructive effects.
Oxidation is a natural process that happens during normal cellular functions. As oxygen interacts with cells, of any type, oxidation occurs. Inside the body, however, oxidation causes a breakdown of cells. For this reason, antioxidants are increasingly important because they offset, or neutralize the oxidative chain reaction. These agents, like the flavanols looked at in this study, can also help repair damage already sustained by cells.
The study looked at the benefit cocoa flavanols could have on brain function in elderly adults. Brain ageing, which is thought to be caused by oxidative stress, it would follow could be best combated with antioxidants. And this was the thought process behind the Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Study. Researchers showed that drinking a cocoa drink regularly, a milk-based drink enhanced with cocoa flavanols, improved brain function in elderly adults. The study results suggest that getting a regular helping of flavanols can support healthy brain function as we age.
Flavanols, like the cocoa extract used in the study, are best known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits. Past studies have also documented them as protective to both cardiovascular and nervous systems as well. This long list of benefits may stem from their big role in supporting detoxification. Besides cocoa, flavanols can be found in blueberries, parsley, black tea, citrus fruits and wine.