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Can Chocolate Benefit Your Brain?

March 06, 2007 | 8,479 views


A special cocoa, designed to retain naturally occurring flavanols, could help maintain healthy brain function. This could eventually lead to new weapons against cognitive decline and dementia.


Several studies have indicated that flavanols could improve blood vessel function.

For example, research has shown that the indigenous population living on islands near Panama, who consume a type of cocoa rich in flavanols on a daily basis, also experience unusually low rates of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

The relative risk of death from heart disease on the Panama mainland is 1,280 percent higher than on the islands.

These benefits might also extend to the brain, and could have effects on learning and memory. British researchers studied the results on the brains of young women by studying their brains via magnetic resonance imaging while completing a complex task.

Consumption of the special cocoa resulted in regional changes in brain blood flow for as long as three hours, meaning that cocoa flavanols may have potential as a treatment of vascular damage within the brain.




Dr. Mercola's Comments:

As you probably know by \now, because of all the press it has received over the few years, raw chocolate that is high in flavanols. can actually be healthy for you.

One of these flavanols -- epicatechin -- is responsible for the vascular benefits the Kuna Indians, mentioned above, experience when they drank certain cocoas. Epicatechin results in improved circulation and higher levels of nitric oxide in the blood.

Now I am not talking about the typical chocolate candy you buy at the grocery or even expensive truffles. The beneficial chocolate bioflavanoids are actually in the relatively cacao bean.

Not only can consuming small amounts of this type of chocolate protect your heart, it may also enhance blood flow to your brain and improve your cognitive health as you age.

Before you run to the grocery store in search of the perfect chocolate, however, scientists agree patients receive the most benefits from minimally-processed dark chocolate. Some guidelines to keep in mind about consuming chocolate;

  • Consume chocolate only in moderation.
  • Stay with dark chocolate because it has antioxidant properties that protect your body from oxidative stress.
  • Eat chocolate only if you're healthy.

On Vital Votes, Sara from Malibu, California adds:

"Yet another great example of the food industry taking what could be healthy and ruining it with cheap ingredients, dishonest marketing and over-processing.

"Most American chocolate is a joke -- not really chocolate at all, but an addictive, deadly blend of trans fat, sugar, chemicals and, oh yes .. .a little bit of cheap cocoa powder or flavoring.

"True chocolate is so decadent, you really only need a bit, and you can feel its effects. In fact, I'd recommend chocolate over wine for people looking to boost antioxidant intake -- chocolate doesn't have the addictive nature, toxicity and high simple carbohydrate/glycemic impact of alcohol. It's nice to finally see the kind of chocolate one can enjoy in Europe making its way to <st1:country-region>U.S.</st1:country-region> shelves.

"And Nestle, Mars, et al are in a panic (as they should be for shamelessly shilling junk at us for so many years and billing it as 'chocolate')."

Other responses to this article can be viewed at Vital Votes, and you can add your own thoughts or vote on comments by first registering at Vital Votes.



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