|Join Nairaland / LOGIN! / Trending / Recent / New|
Stats: 2,186,668 members, 4,767,989 topics. Date: Tuesday, 19 February 2019 at 12:28 AM
|What’s In Chocolate, Cocoa That Might Benefit Brain Health? by rubenic(m): 2:09pm On Aug 10, 2013|
There’s nothing much more alluring than a headline touting the health benefits of chocolate – and if they have to do with protecting the brain, most of us are sold. There’s been a lot of research in this area, with some studies strongly suggesting that compounds in cocoa may reduce the risk for age-related cognitive decline, or, possibly, even reverse it once it occurs. The problem is that no one can quite pin down why it might be good for the brain, though certain mechanisms are good candidates. Now, a new study in Neurology goes a little further in teasing apart the mechanisms that may be involved in the chocolate-brain relationship. And though the researchers aren’t recommending we all increase our cocoa consumption just yet, there do appear to be certain compounds in cocoa that are worth paying attention to.
In the new study, the team from Harvard randomly assigned 60 elderly people to drink two cups of flavanol-rich or flavanol-poor cocoa every day for a month. Flavanols are a type of polyphenol – antioxidants found in foods like cocoa, tea, berries, and wine. Foods rich in these compounds have been shown to benefit heart and brain health in the past. The problem with many earlier studies is that they’ve asked people to recall their intake of the various foods over the years, which can be unreliable, rather than randomly assigning them to eat specific foods in the present.
Why Is Skipping Breakfast So Bad For Our Heart Health?
Sugar Makes You Stupid, But Omega-3s Will Smarten You Back Up
Use It Or Lose It: Mental Activity In Childhood And Adulthood Thwarts
The participants were tested for memory and thinking skills before and after the cocoa intervention, and given a form of ultrasound that measures blood flow in the brain. There weren’t any overall differences between the high- and low-flavanol groups in terms of cognitive abilities, so the researchers looked a little deeper. They found that people who had compromised blood flow to the brain and white matter damage at the beginning of the study did show a difference after drinking the cocoa for a month: Blood flow in their brains improved by about 8%, and the time it took them to complete a working memory test dropped from 167 seconds to 116 seconds.
These results are nothing if not enticing, and they do support earlier evidence that cocoa’s benefits may stem from its capacity to improve blood flow to the brain, which uses a whopping 20% of the body’s energy, while only accounting for 2% of its weight. In other words, the brain is quite a needy organ, energetically speaking, so any improvement in blood flow could be reflected in cognition.
“We’re learning more about blood flow in the brain and its effect on thinking skills,” study author Farzaneh A. Sorond tells me. “As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow. This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”
The problem is that not only do we not know exactly how cocoa does this, but we don’t really even know what compound in it is responsible. “How cocoa results in improved neurovascular coupling, we don’t know,” says Sorond. “We also don’t know what it is in cocoa that is beneficial; is it the flavanols, the caffeine, the theobromine? In our study there was no difference between the flavanol poor and rich compounds in terms of benefit. Does this mean the flavanols are not important or does it mean that just a little bit of flavanol is enough?”
Sorond says that her hunch, based on the literature, is that it is the antioxidants – the flavanols – that are responsible. “But this has yet to be confirmed,” she adds.
It’s important to point out that the big caveat in the study is that only people with compromised blood flow showed improvement, so it’s too early to recommend chocolate as a therapeutic tool to prevent or reverse cognitive decline, or to stock up on it before a big presentation or exam. The “bad” things in chocolate may effectively counteract the good ones. “I do not recommend that people add chocolate or cocoa to their diet at this point,” says Sorond. “Our results are preliminary and adding the extra calories, sugar and fat that comes with chocolate and cocoa carries additional health hazards which may offset any possible brain benefits.”
That said, an editorial in the same journal is a little more hopeful. While the authors don’t think cocoa’s effects have to do with the flavanols, they do say that in the future, “regular cocoa consumption may be a strategy to minimize (perhaps even reverse) cerebral vascular pathology in neurodegenerative disorders, regardless of its flavanol content.”
We’ll keep watching as the cocoa studies roll in. Though there are many other places to get your flavanols, it’s likely that a little dark chocolate every now and then is not such a bad thing, and may actually be a very good one.
Read more http://www.afronaija.com/whats-in-chocolate-cocoa-that-might-benefit-brain-health/
|Sections: politics (1) business autos (1) jobs (1) career education (1) romance computers phones travel sports fashion health |
religion celebs tv-movies music-radio literature webmasters programming techmarket
Nairaland - Copyright © 2005 - 2019 Oluwaseun Osewa. All rights reserved. See How To Advertise. 59