Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Three Cheers for Chocolate!

Feeding your brain: new benefits found in chocolate
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - As if people needed another excuse to like chocolate, new studies suggest a specially formulated type of cocoa may boost brain function and delay decline as people age, researchers said on Sunday.

Scientists, speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco, presented results from early studies testing the effects on the brain of flavanols, an ingredient found in cocoa.

Funded by candy maker Mars Inc., which provided a specially formulated liquid cocoa concoction for the research, the studies suggest that flavanols increase blood flow to the brain and may hold promise for treating some vascular impairments.

Mars, a private company, has made a study of the health benefits of cocoa. Its CocoaVia line of chocolates, made with a process that retains flavanols, have been shown in clinical trials to have benefits for the heart.

The latest research also suggests benefits for the brain.

Ian Macdonald of Britain's University of Nottingham Medical School, conducted a small brain imaging study on young, healthy women to see whether flavanol-rich cocoa helped boost cognitive function during challenging mental tasks.

Although the beverage did not improve their performance on the tests, it did increase blood flow to their brains for a two to three-hour period, Macdonald said.

He believes more research might show that increased blood flow could benefit older adults and those who have cognitive impairments, such as fatigue or even mini-strokes.

A U.S. study of healthy adults over 50 also found a marked rise in blood flow. It was conducted by Harvard Medical School researcher Dr. Norman Hollenberg, who has studied the effects of cocoa and flavanols on Panama's Kuna Indian population.

Hollenberg believes that, while promising, the brain benefit needs to be verified.

"The only way we can prove something is working is a large clinical trial," he said.

Meanwhile, the researchers cautioned against rushing out to binge on the special Mars line of chocolates.

"It is a modest calorie load but it is a calorie load," Macdonald said. "As long as you are doing something to earn that 100 calories, then that's fine."

Large clinical trial? *perks up*

Anybody want to join me in volunteering? Lord knows my brain could use some help.

What's your poison? Chocolate? Soft drinks? Cookies? Ice cream? All or none of the above? Tell us about it. I personally have a thing for vanilla popsicles coated with chocolate.


Kathy said...

The key is to do everything in moderation.

I love chocolate and coke. I thought giving up coke would help me lose weight but it hasn't. So what's the point? Why should I deny myself a coke when in doing so, the desired effect hasn't been achieved? Could it be that during exercise, I've put on muscle mass? That this has in turn increased my weight instead? Once the muscle burns off the fat, will I then find the weight loss I crave? And... how long will that take before I give myself the thing I want. Coke.


Instigator said...

So there's a justifiable reason I reach for chocolate every time I'm exhausted. I need the brain boost :-)

Okay, now someone explain this to WW so I can eat more chocolate and everything will be fine.


Problem Child said...

Well, I was trying to diet, but if it's in the name of scientific research and advancement of the common good...

Smarty Pants said...

I'm a sweet craver, so a lot can fit in the category. Depending on the mood and what's available, I could go for chocolate, cookies, diet coke, twinkies...whatever I can get my hands on. Sugar and caffeine are the foods of the gods. I'm sure that's what ambrosia is made of.


Sheryl M said...

Hi, my name is Sheryl and I'm a Chocoholic. I have tried the twelve step progam many times and I have failed. I am doomed to repeat this failure for the rest of my God given days, so pass the chocolate ladies! I too am a carb lover. Atkins diet? I think not. Remeber that man died overweight, so if the founder of the program could not live his life that way, then why should I travel that path? And Diet Dr. kids know that mommy will lose it if she runs out.

Carol said...

I never say NO to chocolate! lol
Now I have a good excuse to say YES! Moderation is the key, of course, as it is with any of the foods we love.

Pat said...

I love ice cream and dark chocolates and any kind of fruit desserts.

Lois said...

Me please to a study with chcolate!!!! :) Heck, I'll push everyone else out of the stinken line just to be the first. LOL :)


catslady said...

Donuts, pastries, cookies, cake call to me the most. And, yes, moderation is the key. I don't believe in saying you can't eat a particular food because then I think you want it more.

Lis said...

I'm with Kathy. :o) Nothing's better than a cold can of coke.