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New Study Drizzles Chocolate with Health Benefits

Aug 15th, 2012
Staff Writer

Hot cocoa || Photo credit: fir0002/flagstaffotosOnce again, the world’s most popular dessert is earning recognition for its nutritional power. As if it was not long enough, researchers have determined that cognitive function, blood pressure and Insulin resistance can all be added to the list of chocolate’s profits.

Recently published in the American Heart Association’s Hypertension Journal, a team of Italian scientists found that older individuals benefited significantly from consistent chocolate consumption. Conducted at Italy’s L’Aquila University, the research tested the effect of different doses of cocoa flavanols, consumed in the form of hot cocoa, by three groups of 30 elderly persons with mild cognitive impairments, according to the published article.

The groups were distinguished by cocoa concentration: high, intermediate, and low. The high concentration group consumed just under 1 gram, the intermediate consumed half a gram, and the low consumed 45 milligrams every day for eight weeks.

In the end, several categories of mental function improved, consistent with chocolate concentration. The high-intake subjects saw the most substantial results. In “Trail Making”, a test of navigation, the high and intermediate-consuming groups improved by upwards of 25%. Verbal fluency was similarly affected, resulting in much improved word-per-minute rates after high or intermediate consumption.

Beyond the improved cognitive function, the hot cocoa also contributed to a decrease in several physiological descriptors. “Insulin resistance, blood pressure, and lipid peroxidation decreased among subjects in the high-flavanol and intermediate-flavanol groups,” as stated by Dr. Giovambattista Desideri. Insulin is often negatively associated with Diabetes, but the hormone plays important roles in many areas of the body including metabolism and muscle contraction.

So does any reason remain that teaches avoidance of this most marvelous morsel? High fat and sugar content in many chocolate-laced foods could do more harm than good. But as for hot cocoa, the research has determined that just a cup will warm the body and heat the mind.