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Could chocolate protect your brain?

Boosting blood flow with a Mars bar

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Excellent news: chocolate is might be good for your brain.

Research presented at the American Associate for the Advancement of Science suggests that eating a specially formulated type of cocoa could improve brain function and slow the brain's decline as we slide into old age.

Sadly for anyone who relishes objective science, the work has been funded by Mars.

Even more sadly, the research is being used to promote an actual product, taking it from the realms of science and straight into marketing.

Still, we find the idea of healthy chocolate strangely attractive, not least because it would probably cause a great deal of upset to diet gurus like Gillian McKeith.

So, with two fingers firmly raised in the direction of beetroot and celery juice for breakfast, we'll continue.

The work was conducted at the University of Nottingham's medical school. A small group of women was tasked with completing a series of mental challenges. The idea was that consuming the specially brainy chocolate drink, rich in flavonols, would improve their performance.

Well, it didn't, but scans of the women's brains during the tests showed increased blood flow in the brain for two to three hours. An older test group also showed increased blood flow after consuming the drink.

The researchers hypothesised that this increase in blood flow might benefit older adults afflicted by mini strokes or fatigue. More work, they say, is needed. ®

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