According to a new study featured on Science Daily, chocolate isn't just a guilty pleasure--it may actually help older adults maintain good mental health.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School asked 60 older adults to drink two cups of hot cocoa every day for thirty days. They were then given exercises designed to test their cognitive power and underwent ultrasound brain exams to monitor their neural blood flow. The participants had an average age of 73 years old and did not show any signs of dementia

At the beginning of the trial, 18 of the 60 participants had blood flow issues. However, after 30 days of drinking hot chocolate, researchers reported an 8.3-percent improvement in blood flow to certain areas of the brain. The researchers also reported that there has been a marked improvement on the participants’ performances on memory tests.

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"We're learning more about blood flow in the brain and its effect on thinking skills. As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow. This relationship, called neuromuscular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer's," says study author Farzaneh A. Sorond, MD, PhD.

While this is good news for many older adults, it is important that they first consult their doctors if taking hot chocolate would have any contradictory effects with their medication and diets. After all, you can never be too careful when it comes to your health.

(Photo by Rev Stan via Flickr Creative Commons)

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