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Nibble This For Your Noggin

Sure, an apple a day can keep the doctor away. But what about that nightly nibble of chocolate? Turns out, the indulgence might be more beneficial than you'd think: Chocolate appears to stave off dementia and keep cognition sharp in older populations, according to a new study.

The delectable news is courtesy of researchers at the University of L'Aquila in Italy. They evaluated the impact of daily cocoa intake on 90 study participants over the age of 65, all of them afflicted with mild cognitive impairment, a precursor to Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

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After only eight weeks, the study found that participants imbibing larger quantities of cocoa—in the form of a chocolate-flavored beverage—had significantly higher cognitive scores, including better short and long-term memory. 

More from Prevention.com:5 Strange Ways Chocolate Keeps You Healthy

Researchers suspect that cocoa's cognitive cachet can be credited to flavonols. These naturally-occuring antioxidants, found in foods including cocoa, red wine, and tea, are already credited with offering protection against cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure and risk of heart attack or stroke. 

“We now know that eating foods rich in flavonols is part of a healthy diet,” says Rachel Johnson, PhD, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont. “If people wanted to add more flavonols to their diet, chocolate is one option.”

While this research is promising, it isn't an excuse to scarf chocolate willy-nilly, says Johnson. In particular, she says, further investigations are necessary to determine whether cocoa can also enhance cognition among younger adults. “These participants already had some impairment,” she says. “Do the results hold for those who don't? We aren't sure yet.”

For those who do want to add a little cocoa to their diets (and really, who doesn't?) Johnson offers these tips for enjoying chocolate with the most potent health perks:

Avoid candy bars:Instead, opt for dark chocolate bars with at least a 70% cocoa content. The intense flavor might take some getting used to, but “because it is so rich, people often find that a smaller amount curbs their cravings,” says Johnson.

Stay natural:For baking or making hot chocolate, Johnson suggests natural, unsweetened cocoa powder. It's the variety with the most flavonols, as opposed to processed or sugar-laden versions.

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Date: 09.01.2019, 10:29 / Views: 65281