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Sensational Chocolate Science

Friday, April 01, 2016


This is not an April Fool's joke! A study published in the upcoming May 2016 peer-reviewed journal Appetite is titled “Chocolate intake is associated with better cognitive function: The Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study.” The results are guaranteed to make most people happy, since chocolate rarely fails to stimulate synesthesia—particularly in the human female brain.

Cross-sectional analyses were undertaken on 968 community-dwelling participants aged 23 to 98 years from the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study. Habitual chocolate intake was related to cognitive performance, measured with an extensive battery of neuropsychological tests.

More frequent chocolate consumption was significantly associated with better performance on the Global Composite score, visual-spatial memory and organization, working memory, scanning and tracking, abstract reasoning, and the mini-mental State Examination.

In the absence of effective treatments for neurodegenerative disorders, nutritional practices targeted at preventing or slowing cognitive decline may contribute significantly toward optimizing cognitive functioning across the adult life span.

Chocolate and cocoa products are a rich source of nutrient-dense flavonoids that represent up to 20 percent of the compounds in cocoa beans. The amount of cocoa in chocolate ranges from approximately seven to 15 percent in milk chocolate and 30 to 80 percent in cocoa-intense dark chocolate.

The ability of flavonoid-rich foods to improve cognitive function has been demonstrated in both epidemiological studies and clinical trials.

Two randomized trials have demonstrated improvements in cognitive function following a single dose of chocolate or cocoa flavanols. Benefits included improvement in information- processing speed and work memory within hours of consuming cocoa flavanols or dark chocolate.

It will probably be no surprise to our female readers to learn the studies found that women consume more chocolate than men.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, "Cocoa, Cognition and Aging (CoCoA) Study" clearly provided evidence that daily consumption of cocoa flavanols can improve cognitive function in healthy, elderly individuals. Consistent with the immediate-effect studies, improvements in processing speed and attentional tasks were also seen following eight weeks of consuming an intermediate to high daily dose of cocoa flavanols.

In contrast to the CoCoA study, other studies using administration of chocolate or cocoa flavanols, ranging from five days to six weeks, have failed to find statistically significant positive effects on cognition. Unfortunately, the dietary intake questionnaires in the other studies did not differentiate between the consumption of milk, dark or white chocolate.

The Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study investigators suggest that the variability in the flavanol content in chocolate, which varies according to the bean variety, origin and manufacturing processes, may contribute to the mixed outcomes observed in studies to date on the effects of cocoa flavanols on cognition.

The investigators concluded it’s evident that nutrients in food exert differential effects on the brain. As has been repeatedly demonstrated, isolating these nutrients and foods enables the formation of dietary interventions to optimize neuropsychological health.

Ellen Troyer, with Spencer Thornton, MD, and the Biosyntrx staff



PEARL

Since quality dark chocolate includes far more flavanols than milk chocolate, we suggest spending your brain-health-promoting chocolate calories on unsweetened or lightly sweetened luscious dark chocolate. It also makes sense to make sure the multiple you are taking or recommending to patients includes generous amounts of flavonoids.

The cocoa-intense Indiana-based Endangered Species chocolate company makes their dark chocolate bars with ethically traded, shade grown cacao and natural organic ingredients. And the best part, 10 percent of all net profits are donated to support conservation efforts. My two most favorites are their dark chocolate bars with cinnamon, cayenne and cherries, and their dark chocolate bar with espresso beans—the all-time-best afternoon pick-me-up.

Bibliography

Clinical references available in the Biosyntrx office.