Drinking cocoa may benefit the brain in old age, a study suggests.
The research, funded by the Mars confectionery company, tested the effects of daily cocoa on 90 elderly volunteers.
Participants were given milk-based cocoa drinks containing high, intermediate or low levels of plant compounds called flavanols which are said to reduce the risk of dementia.
After eight weeks, mental performance increased significantly for those given the "high" and "intermediate" drinks.
Consuming the flavanol-rich drinks led to better scores in tests of working memory, verbal memory and task-switching.
Researchers notes changes to stride time and cadence.
There could be changes to stride length and velocity.
Has the amount of time you spend on one or both feet changed?
How does your walking style vary to others?
Base of Support
Has your step width and stride width changed?
How many errors do you make in a 'tandem walk' (where the heel of your front foot is placed directly touching the toes of your back foot)?
Are you aware of any variation to the amount of time and steps you need to turn around?
Blood pressure and insulin resistance - a pre-diabetic condition - decreased in volunteers drinking high and intermediate levels of flavanols.
Lead researcher Dr Giovambattista Desideri, from the University of L'Aquila in Italy, said: "This study provides encouraging evidence that consuming cocoa flavanols, as part of a calorie-controlled and nutritionally balanced diet, could improve cognitive function.
"The positive effect on cognitive function may be mainly mediated by an improvement in insulin sensitivity. It is yet unclear whether these benefits in cognition are a direct consequence of cocoa flavanols or a secondary effect of general improvements in cardiovascular function."
The research is published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.