Wait - what was I going to write about?
Oh yes. Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) recently released results of a study showing that flavanols, as found in chocolate, reverse the memory loss associated with aging.
The study involved [a small sample with] 37 healthy subjects who ranged in age from 50 to 69 [gender unspecified]. On a random basis, they were given either a high-flavanol diet, consuming 900 milligrams a day, or a low flavanol diet, consuming 10mg per day. ... Researchers said that if a person had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months, on average, that person’s memory would function more like a 30- or 40-year-old’s [if given the high-flavanol diet]. -- Washington Post
Men from Mars
More research needs to be done, needless to say. And if this sounds like a promo for the Mars candy company, turns out the Mars candy company subsidized the study. The company makes a lot of (delicious) chocolate things. How many? Mars, Inc. revenues were said to be US$30 billion in 2012, and the company is currently ranked by Forbes as the 3rd largest privately held company in the United States.
Unfortunately, cocoa processing for candy bars and similar confections removes many of the flavanols found in the raw plant. Even dark chocolate is likely to be processed in a way that diminishes if not entirely depletes flavanol. This might be a good paragraph for a memory lapse, as it were.
Down to earth
Researchers are only beginning to establish standards for measuring flavanol content in chocolate. A typical one and a half ounce chocolate bar might contain about 50 milligrams of flavanols, which means you would need to consume 10 to 20 bars daily.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) has pledged funding for an 18,000-person exhaustive study of the effects of flavanols, in which cocoa flavanols found in pre-processed dark chocolate will be taken in the form of a pill. Now that's likely to be a little more down to earth.
There's a reason to stick with fruit for your daily intake of flavanols. A food's origin, processing, storage and preparation can each alter its chemical composition. As a result, it is nearly impossible to predict which flavanols—and how many—remain in your bonbon or cup of tea.
Researchers at California's Loma Linda University believe that the flavanols in pomegranate juice may enhance memory and improve cognitive function. After giving either pomegranate juice or sugar water to mice for six months, they found that the mice that drank pomegranate juice learned maze tasks more quickly than the others. The researchers call for further research to explore whether flavanols from pomegranates may be useful for treating cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer's disease. But overall, the pomegranate seemed to deserve honorable mention here.