9/27/2012 7:44:45 AM
Type the word 'superfood,' into a web browser and you'll be overwhelmed: some websites even maintain that dark chocolate can have beneficial effects. But take a closer look at the science underpinning these claims, and you'll discover just how sparse it is. So, when University of Calgary undergraduate Lee Fruson became curious about how dietary factors might affect memory, Ken Lukowiak was sceptical. 'I didn't think any of this stuff would work', Lukowiak recalls. Despite his misgivings, Lukowiak and Fruson decided to concentrate on a group of compounds – the flavonoids – found in a wide range of 'superfoods' including chocolate and green tea, focusing on one particular flavonoid, epicatechin (epi). However, figuring out how a single component of chocolate might improve human memory is almost impossible – too many external factors influence memory formation – so Lukowiak turned to his favourite animal, the pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis, to find out whether the dark chocolate flavonoid could improve their memories. They publish their discovery that epi improves the length and strength of snail memories in The Journal of Experimental Biology at http://jeb.biologists.com.
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