Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but new research suggests that dessert may be just as vital.

A new study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience found that an antioxidant in chocolate called cocoa flavanols has the potential to improve memory skills that may be lost with age. 

In the study, which tracked healthy people aged 50 to 69, researchers from Columbia University Medical Center required subjects to drink a mixture of cocoa flavanols for three months. Those who drank the high-flavanol drink performed better on a memory test than those drinking a low-flavanol mixture.

On the study's memory test, high-flavanol drinkers performed like those two to three decades their junior, on average, the study's main author told The New York Times.

The study was financed in part by Virginia-based Mars Inc., the largest maker of chocolate in the United States. Other funding came from the National Institutes of Health and two other research foundations.

While the conclusions found in the study are promising, don't rush to your neighborhood confectioner just yet. "To consume the high-flavanol group's daily dose of epicatechin, 138 milligrams," the Times warns, "would take eating at least 300 grams of dark chocolate a day--about seven average-size chocolate bars." 

"You would have to eat a lot of chocolate," Hagen Schroeter, director of fundamental health and nutrition research for Mars, told the Times. "Candy bars don't even have a lot of chocolate in them." 

Keep reading for more on how to improve your memory.

Published on: Oct 27, 2014