Alcohol and chocolate may not be cure-alls for memory loss or dementia, but they could help prevent these conditions, new research shows.
In two independent studies, researchers find that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol might preserve cognitive functioning, while a natural compound in cocoa can reverse age-related memory loss.
Findings published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias show that alcohol consumption in late life, but not midlife, is associated with episodic memory and larger hippocampal volume.
The hippocampus is a part of the brain that plays an important role in short-term and long-term memory, as well as spatial navigation.
“The findings from this study provide new evidence that hippocampal volume may contribute to the observed differences in episodic memory among older adults and late-life alcohol consumption status,” an abstract of the study indicates.
Another study, published recently in the Nature Neuroscience journal, finds that naturally occurring flavanols in cocoa reverse mild memory loss in older adults.
This study also looks to the hippocampus as a measure of the “treatment’s” success. The dentate gyrus (DG) is a region in the hippocampal region whose function declines in association with human aging and is thus considered to be a possible source of age-related memory decline.
Researches tested the effect of cocoa in a controlled randomized trial of healthy 50- to 69-year-olds who consumed either a high or low cocoa-containing diet for three months.
And they found that those with a high cocoa-containing, or high-flavanol, diet enhanced DG function, as measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and by cognitive testing.
“Our findings establish that DG dysfunction is a driver of age-related cognitive decline and suggest non-pharmacological means for its amelioration,” the researchers write.
Written by Emily Study