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Hot chocolate helps the brain, study says

Harvard researchers found that seniors that drank hot cocoa regularly had better memories and performed better on cognitive tests.
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A new study from Harvard says that consuming hot chocolate regularly can reduce the risk of dementia. (Stephen Chernin/AFP/Getty Images)

In case you needed another reason to drink hot chocolate, researchers have found that it may help stave off dementia.

Harvard researchers found that seniors that drank hot cocoa regularly had better memories and performed better on cognitive tests.

The reason? Cocoa helps speed up blood flow to the brain.

"As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow," said study author Farzaneh Aghdassi Sorond, an associate neurologist at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

"This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer's."

The study looked at 60 people over 65 with health problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

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The participants were asked to drink two cups of hot cocoa everyday.

Although the results were intriguing in those who drank cocoa, the research was actually looking at a new method to detect vascular dementia before outward symptoms appear.

The new technique measured blood flow to the brain, which hot chocolate appears to increase.

"This is the first measure that could potentially identify individuals at risk before they develop the disease," Sorond said, USA Today reported.

"If we could find a way to identify them before they have damaged their neurons and blood vessels, potentially we could prevent this disease."

About 5.2 million people in the US have Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia.

The findings were published in the journal Neurology.

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