Here in Mais Saúde we like to give health hints that are easy and pleasurable. This report, published in the August 2012 journal Hypertension, gives more evidence that cocoa is good for your health, and your brain!
Dr. G. Desideri and his colleagues at the University of L’Aquila, Italy, studied a group of 90 elderly people, which they split into 3 groups of 30 people each. During the eight-week study period, they fed each group of 30 a different mixture of a cocoa drink. One group of 30 got a mixture with a high level of “flavanols” (a healthy component of foods), another group got a medium level, and the last group received a low level of the flavanols.Note the 90 people they chose for this study had a diagnosis of “mild cognitive impairment” meaning they showed some signs of slowing of brain function, but not so severe as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The doctors wanted to see if the different mixtures of cocoa improved their brain functioning.
They performed a variety of blood and mental tests on the 90 subjects. They also tested to see if see if their insulin hormone was functioning any better after the cocoa, as well as checking the lipid (fat) levels and blood pressure.
Doctors use a variety of tests to check brain functioning, and on two of these tests, the more of the flavanol the person drank, the faster and better their brains worked. One test was the “Trail Making Test” (where you connect, in order, numbers from 1 to 25 scattered on a page). The group in the high flavanol group connected the numbers in 38 seconds (average), and the low group took longer, at 53 seconds.
The other significant improvement in the people drinking the more concentrated cocoa was in “verbal fluency”, where you are asked to name as many words as possible in a certain category in 60 seconds. For example, you might be asked to “name as many animals as you think of”.
As an additional benefit, the researchers found the high flavanol group experienced a significant and healthy drop in their blood pressure, and no change in their blood fat levels.
The healthy compound in cocoa, flavanol, is also found in high concentration in red grapes, tea, and apples, and in some fruits, such as strawberries and pomegranates. The flavanols are believed to act directly on our blood vessels to keep them flexible, and less likely to develop clots.
Flavanols also make our hormone insulin (that regulates our sugar level) work more efficiently. In general, lower sugar levels make our entire metabolism work better, including helping to decrease fat accumulation.
So it might be a good idea, no matter what your age or even if your mind works great, to drink a cup of hot chocolate a day, or more! Another source is a couple squares of the darkest chocolate you can find. It’s hard to overdose (just watch the calories)!
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