Dark chocolate holds health benefits for seniors

Dark chocolate may not be the first food that comes to mind when people think about healthy aging, but the popular treat has more benefits than one might think. A handful of studies released over the last several years have suggested that dark chocolate may be a staple of a healthy lifestyle for seniors.

Some of the greatest benefits associated with dark chocolate affect the heart. Last year, Australian researchers found that eating dark chocolate every day for 10 years may help lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Experts say the benefits are due largely to the higher levels of flavonoids found in dark chocolate. Other studies have found that a moderate intake can reduce the risk of heart attack. Still, it's important to follow this advice within reason.

"Recommendations for daily consumption of dark chocolate ... will certainly get people with metabolic syndrome excited, but at this point these findings are more hypothetical than proven, and the results need real-life data to confirm," expert Kenneth Ong told Reuters. 

Dark chocolate is also associated with cognitive benefits. In fact, researchers have found that it could help seniors stave off the development of Alzheimer's disease. The most compelling evidence comes from a 2012 study that suggests flavonoids could improve blood flow around the brain, which is often closely tied to dementia and other cognitive disorders. 

While eating dark chocolate may have certain benefits, seniors need to take other steps for a healthy retirement besides eating a candy bar every now and then. Intervention strategies such as taking part in active leisure pursuits, staying socially engaged and regularly exercising will likely bolster any benefits seniors can enjoy from the occasional cocoa indulgence.