Since we spent the first half of this week talking about how supposedly healthy Frankenfoods will hijack your metabolism and put you on the fast track to disease, I thought I’d turn the tables today… and talk about one “guilty pleasure” that actually does your body a whole lot of good.
In fact, this treat has been linked to everything from heart health to improved circulation. And now, a new study is touting its brain-boosting benefits, too…
Flavanols fuel brain power
This small but compelling study appeared recently in the journal Scientific Reports. Researchers recruited 18 healthy, non-smoking adults with no existing brain, cardiovascular, or respiratory disease.
The goal? To investigate how cocoa flavanols impact circulation to the brain—and in turn, how that affects cognitive performance. (Flavanols are the natural compounds that lend fruits, vegetables, teas, and chocolate their color. And those of us on the natural side of medicine have been touting their health benefits for as long as I can remember.)
The study consisted of two different trials—one in which participants consumed flavanol-rich cocoa, and one in which they consumed processed cocoa with little–to–no flavanols. (I should also note that this was a double-blind study, so neither the participants nor the researchers knew which type of cocoa the subjects received.)
About two hours after drinking the cocoa, researchers assessed blood and oxygen flow to the brain—and more specifically, to the frontal cortex, which is critical to planning, behavior regulation, and decision-making. The researchers also administered challenges to analyze how participants handled complex cognitive tasks.
And the results weren’t at all surprising—at least, not to me.
Most of the subjects showed stronger and faster oxygen uptake in their brains after consuming the flavanol-rich cocoa—more than three times higher and a full minute faster, in fact.
But that’s not all. When subjects drank the flavanol-rich cocoa, they also performed better on the hardest cognitive tests—solving the administered challenges 11 percent faster than they did at baseline, or when they drank the processed cocoa.
Not just any cocoa will cut it
Of course, this is far from the first time science has pointed to cocoa flavanols as the key to a razor–sharp mind.
In fact, at least two other recent studies have reported that cocoa flavanols can actually reverse cognitive decline and memory loss in older adults.
For the first study, researchers gathered 90 people, ages 65 to 80 years, who had mild cognitive impairment but not dementia. Those who drank a chocolate beverage every day scored better on cognition and verbal fluency tests eight weeks later. They also had lower blood pressure and insulin resistance (a risk factor for diabetes).
The second study, which involved 37 people ages 50 to 69 years, found that the participants who consumed a chocolate drink every day for three months scored better on memory tests at the end of the study.
According to this study’s lead author: “If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months, that person on average had the memory of a typical 30- or 40-year-old.”
How incredible is that?!
This is exactly why chocolate has always been one of my top picks for natural brain protection. But as this latest study shows, not just any chocolate fits the bill—and a cup of Swiss Miss hot cocoa is not going to do your brain any favors.
So here’s what I recommend doing instead: Stick with the purest cocoa product you can find, in a bar or powder form. (I always opt for 100 percent cocoa, but I advise looking for at least 85 percent.)
Mix it up on the stovetop with unsweetened almond or coconut milk, along with just enough stevia or lo han to cut the bitterness. The resulting concoction is one of my favorite treats in the wintertime. (Or any season, really.) It’s healthy, simple, and most definitely delicious.
P.S. For additional ways to protect and restore your memory, strengthen your focus, and fight dementia, I encourage you to check out my Alzheimer’s Prevention and Treatment Plan. To learn more about this comprehensive, online learning tool, or to enroll today, click here now!
“Cocoa flavanols boost brain oxygenation, cognition in healthy adults.” Science Daily, 11/24/2020. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201124092154.htm)