Scientists believe they’ve found a secret lurking in your hot chocolate

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Image: Could a cup of cocoa improve your memory?

Photo: Martin Poole

If you ever needed an excuse to curl up with a hot chocolate (beside the darker, colder nights), then this is it.


A new study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience claims that the flavenols found in cocoa beans could help prevent memory loss.


According to the study, people who consumed more cocoa saw an increase in blood flow to a part of the brain called the dentate gyrus, which helps with memory.


The study recorded the brain functions of 37 people between 50 and 69 years of age who consumed either a "high or low cocoa-containing diet" for three months.


The results showed that those who ate more cocoa performed better when faced with a memory task than those who consumed less.


Dr Scott A Small, a neurologist at Columbia University Medical Centre where the study was conducted said: “If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months that person on average had the memory of a typical 30- or 40-year-old.”


Unfortunately, charities have warned that we shouldn’t be stocking up on any extra Halloween chocolate just yet.


Dr Clare Walton, research manager at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “This well-designed study suggests the antioxidants found in cocoa can improve cognitive performance by improving blood flow to a certain region of the brain.


"The jury is still out as to whether partaking in things high in antioxidants can improve your memory or reduce the risk of dementia.”


While we wait for more research to be done, we reckon we’ll be upping our cocoa consumption – just in case.