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NOT BORN YESTERDAY: Yes, it’s good for you

By LINDA BROWN, Not Born Yesterday

A new study out of Italy is a dream come true for chocolate lovers. It appears chocolate isn’t just good for the soul, it also is good for the mind and heart.

In the study, elderly participants with mild cognitive impairment consumed drinks that were either low, moderate or high in cocoa flavanol. Cognitive function — including short-term and long-term memory, executive function, processing speed and overall thinking skills — was tested after eight weeks. Scores improved in patients who drank moderate and high levels of flavanol.

The study adds to a growing body of evidence that consuming moderate amounts of chocolate might be good for you.

“There is a large and growing list of findings that link foods concentrated in bioflavanoids — and cocoa specifically — with beneficial health effects,” Luanne Fruend, director at Vintage Park Assisted Living Center, 2250 S. Elm St., said.

A recent study found that dark chocolate reduces the risk of heart problems. Flavanols, which also are found in tea and such dark fruits as red grapes, cherries and apples, are also known to help kidney function, weight gain, anemia, gout, diabetes and stroke.

Freund cautioned against loading up on chocolate just because you have a fear of dementia.

“The study was slightly flawed because it had no control group. In other words, people who consumed a large amount of cocoa flavanols were compared to people who consumed less, not to people who consumed none,” she said.

“Second, the study time was relatively short at just eight weeks. Just because flavanols are known to improve heart function in the short term it’s possible that the improvements in cognitive function were simply the result of improved blood flow to the brain.”

Still, enough doctors agree that chocolate is a tasty and practical way to consume more flavanols, and that’s good news for chocolate lovers around the world.

Linda Brown is marketing director for The Ottawa Herald. Email her at lbrown@ottawaherald.com

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