In a study performed at the Columbia University Medical Center, researchers found that consuming high levels of antioxidants--specifically the kind present in dark chocolate--can improve the memory of aging persons by up to twenty-five percent. Funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Mars chocolate company, the experiment points out the importance of diet when it comes to brain function, especially as we age. 

For the experiment, a group of individuals aged fifty to sixty-nine years were given drink mixtures high in antioxidants that are found naturally in dark chocolate, known as flavanols. Researchers found that individuals given this mixture were better at remembering where they had parked their car and recalling the faces of people they had newly met.

The scientists also observed direct improvements in brain functioning, measured by an increased blood flow to the hippocampus, which controls for certain kinds of memory. The area of the brain that is known to malfunction concurrent with Alzheimer's, however, was not affected by the cocao antioxidants.

A warning for those who want to boost their memory by enjoying dark chocolate (since processing removes the antioxidant from milk chocolate): to consume the level of flavanol given by the experimenters, you would have to eat upwards of seven chocolate bars a day. And this may entail some health consequences of its own. 

Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in her Big Think interview that consuming chocolate can cause the brain to produce sensations of pleasure and reward similar to those that a drug addict experiences: 

Read more at Nova Next

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