Is chocolate a sweet way to tackle dementia?

broken chocolate bar isolated on white

broken chocolate bar isolated on white - Credit: Archant

It is a much-loved treat for sweet tooths and not known for its health benefits, but a radical new study at the University of East Anglia aims to link eating chocolate to reducing the risk of dementia.

Chocoholics are being encouraged to take part in a multi-million pound research project spanning three continents which could cast new light on how to prevent dementia.

The universities of East Anglia, Illinois, and Melbourne have joined forces to set up a pioneering study which examines the effect of eating chocolate and fish oil daily, and the researchers need your help.

'It is a very good study to take part in if you like chocolate,' said Anne-Marie Minihane, a professor in nutrogenetics at UEA.

'This is a big coup for us and it will be one of the biggest such trials in the UK examing cognition and memory.

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'Participants will have the chance to contribute to potentially significantly reducing the risk of dementia.'

UEA are searching for 120 people to take part in the study, funded by the Centre for Nutrition, Learning and Memory at the University of Illinois.

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Participants will eat between 25-30g of dark chocolate per day (equal to half a standard-size bar) and swallow three fish oil tablets.

Professor Minihane said substances in fish oil and dark chocolate can help stabilise and repair brain cells, which would otherwise die and result in developing dementia.

The study will last a year for each person and is predicted to be concluded by 2017.

Half of the people will be given MRI scans to see how the foods affect their brain, while all participants will take computer tests measuring memory, reaction time, mood, and alertness.

It is hoped the study will prove a combination of fish and dark chocolate can improve a person's brain cells, which would pave the way for food and drink products such as a milkshake to be on supermarket shelves in the near future.

Professor Minihane said such a product would essentially be a chocolate milkshake, with fish oil added which would not affect the taste.

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