Well … kind of, but not really. I wish it were that easy, but I’m still pretty jazzed about this new study out of Columbia.
Warning: This is a small study and the theory needs to be tested on a larger population, but if you are like me, and feel you are slowly losing your memory — along with your mind most days — this should give you hope.
Aside from more serious conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia, almost all adults start to suffer from degree of memory loss as they age. The degeneration is linked to a specific part of the brain called the dentate gyrus in the hippocampus.
It was hypothesized flavanols could improve the function of the dentate gyrus. Flavanols are found in the cocoa bean, chocolate, some teas, vegetables and fruit — grapes, blueberries, apples. Half the study group, which ranged in age from 50-69, drank a special beverage with a high concentration of flavanol extracted directly from the raw cocoa bean plant each day. The other half were given a regular chocolate drink. At the end of 3 months, both imaging studies of the brain and memory tests showed an improvement in the memory function of the group which drank the flavanol drink.
Flavanols are also thought to be beneficial for cardiovascular health. With all the extra chocolate in your house with Halloween on the way, you may be thinking you have a great excuse to gorge yourself on Hershey’s products. Unfortunately, the amount of flavanol found in processed chocolate won’t do you much good. This may be a blessing because you will probably want to forget how many you ate anyway.
The good news is there may be a nutritional supplement coming down the pipeline to make memory loss due to aging not so inevitable. It likely won’t be soon enough to help me remember what everyone wants for Christmas, but it may someday help me remember my grandchildren’s names. That would be nice, because at my current rate of memory loss, I’ll be lucky if I can remember the last time I showered.
If you want to test your memory, see if you can remember the parts of the brain mentioned in this post. I had my 15 year med school reunion last weekend and one of my Neuroanatomy professors was there. She is a lovely woman, but just thinking about that class gave me chills. If you did remember, you are one step ahead of the game. Speaking of games, mind games, reading, engaging your brain, eating well and staying active are all great ways to fight memory loss. Hot chocolate would be so much simpler, right?