Two hot chocolates a day ‘keep dementia away’

Picture: PA
Picture: PA
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Drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day may help the elderly keep their brains healthy and thinking skills sharp, a study suggests.

Researchers took 60 people with an average age of 73 and gave them two cups of hot cocoa a day for 30 days.

The results showed consuming the drinks helped improve bloodflow in the brain, which could have implications for avoiding conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Health campaigners welcomed the research, but said further studies were needed to come up with more conclusive results.

For the latest study, conducted by Harvard Medical School in Boston, the participants were given the cups of cocoa but were not allowed any other chocolate during the 30 days they were followed.

They were given tests on memory and thinking skills, as well as ultrasound tests to measure the amount of blood flow to the brain.

Of the 60 volunteers, 18 were found to have impaired bloodflow at the start of the study. But after 30 days, this group saw a 8.3 per cent improvement in the bloodflow to the working areas of the brain. There was no change in those who already had regular bloodflow.

The volunteers with poorer bloodflow also saw their performance in memory tests improve. At the start of the study, they took an average of 167 seconds to complete the test, dropping to 116 seconds by the end.

Study author Farzaneh orond said: “We’re learning more about bloodflow 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 bloodflow.

“This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”

In an accompanying editorial in the journal Neurology, Paul Rosenberg, from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, said: “More work is needed to prove a link between cocoa, bloodflow problems and cognitive decline. But this is an important first step that could guide future studies.”

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at charity Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “This small study adds to a wealth of existing evidence linking vascular problems and poorer cognition.

“A cocoa-based treatment would likely be very popular, but it’s too soon to draw any conclusions about its effects.

“One drawback of this study is the lack of a control group for comparison, and we can’t tell whether the results would have been different if the participants drank no cocoa at all. This research took place over a very short space of time, and it would be useful to see longer studies to investigate cocoa’s long-term effects.”

Dr Ridley said with dementia posing a major medical challenge, research into ways to prevent the condition was vital.

He added: “Poor vascular health is a known risk factor for dementia, and understanding more about the links between vascular problems and declining brain health could help the search for new treatments and preventions.”

In recent years, many researchers have focused their attention on how chocolate, or its ingredients, may be beneficial to health. Studies have linked cocoa and dark chocolate in particular with positive effects on conditions such as heart disease, reducing the risks of cancer and lowering blood pressure.

Arthritis sufferers at higher risk of fatal blood clots

People with rheumatoid arthritis have a higher risk of suffering potentially fatal leg and lung blood clots, research suggests.

The disease causes pain and swelling in the joints, with patients finding movement very painful.

Now experts writing online in the Annals Of The Rheumatic Diseases have found that people with the disease have a three times higher risk of deep vein thrombosis in the legs than those without.

Sufferers also have a two-fold increased risk of pulmonary embolism in the lungs.

The team, from the China Medical University in Taiwan, studied almost 30,000 patients.

Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, said: “This study is the first suggesting rheumatoid arthritis, which is a disorder which is associated with widespread inflammation, can be a risk factor [to blood clots].”

Blood sugar dementia link

Higher blood sugar levels are linked to an increased risk of dementia, even in people who do not have diabetes, researchers have found.

A study by the University of Washington found that blood sugar levels looked at over a five-year period were associated with a rising risk of developing dementia in more than 2,000 patients followed.

In people without diabetes, the risk of dementia was 18 per cent higher in those with a higher blood sugar level compared to those with lower levels. In people with diabetes, whose blood sugar levels are generally higher, dementia risk was 40 per cent higher compared to those with lower levels.