Your brain on chocolate

I’ve been talking about the benefits of dark chocolate for years. Study after study has shown that the antioxidants in cocoa and chocolate are abundant.

And in July, an impressive review of chocolate’s antioxidant benefits appeared in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

The researchers examined data from 100 different studies, looking specifically at chocolate’s potential brain benefits.

They found that the antioxidant flavonoids in cocoa and dark chocolate have several specific actions on the brain. These substances stimulate the brain, causing multiple positive changes in blood vessels, nerves, and neurons. Particularly in brain regions involved in learning and memory. In fact, the flavonoids in dark chocolate have been shown to preserve the cognitive abilities of aging rats.

And that’s not all.

Chocolate’s flavonoids also benefit blood vessels and blood flow in the brain. And, they help protect brain cells from damaging free radicals–the toxins that result in brain cell death. They also help preserve the synapses between brain cells. That keeps the network of communication alive.

And that, my friends, helps keep the brain young and healthy.

But remember, it’s got to be dark chocolate. And the darker, the better. At least 80 percent–but go even higher if you can. For some people, it’s an acquired taste. But it’s sure worth it.

“The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance.” Br J Clin Pharmacol 2012; Jul 10 (Epub ahead of print)